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Joint problems in horses: which supplements for which problem?

If your horse suffers from its joints, a variety of supplements are available. But which product does exactly what? What are the modes of action? And how do you make the right choice for your horse? Roughly speaking, there are three types of joint supplements for joint problems. Which supplement - or which combination of supplements - you choose depends on the complaints of your horse. You can choose from herbs, silicon and cannabinoids.

The joints of a horse

Because horses are real moving animals, healthy joints are vital for them. A joint is a set of "collapsing" bones encased in cartilage that acts as a pad and bands that hold the joint together (the joint capsule). A joint is lubricated by synovial fluid, which ensures that there is no wear from friction between the bones. Healthy joints have good blood circulation cartilage, a healthy joint capsule and sufficient joint fluid. The composition of the synovial fluid changes with aging or overload. This gives less lubrication and can result in wear, or arthrosis of the joints. That is painful for your horse and unfortunately cannot be turned back. In addition to osteoarthritis, crystalline deposits in the joints can also cause painful inflammation. During stress and physical exertion, uric acid is released, which is basically absorbed into the blood and drained via the kidneys and urine. A too high concentration of uric acid in the blood increases the risk of crystal formation in the joints. In humans, this is called "gout." The immune system wants to clean up and attack the crystals. That attack gives an inflammatory response. If this is going on, your horse needs help to get rid of the uric acid and crystals again.

Arthrosis or crystal formation?

Osteoarthritis can be diagnosed using X-rays and ultrasounds. With osteoarthritis that has progressed further, you see changes in the bone. This is often not yet visible in early osteoarthritis. The formation of uric acid crystals cannot be seen in a photo or ultrasound. That is why it is difficult, especially with novice joint complaints, to know exactly what is going on. If your horse is older, osteoarthritis is more obvious. If your horse works intensively, is trained for a long time or is under a lot of stress, an increase in uric acid levels is likely. But otherwise, in tackling joint complaints, it is mainly a question of testing which product the horse responds best to.

Herbs for joint problems

Heavy work and a lot of stress can lead to an increased uric acid level. A high level of uric acid in the blood can crystallize, which builds up between the joints. Herbs can act on the crystallization of uric acid in the joints. Supplements including turmeric, Boswelia, horsetail (Equisethum arvense), black currant, field horsetail and bamboo can help lower uric acid levels. HELTIE horse® Joints is is developed to prevent this crystallization of uric acid. Especially horses who are intensively trained benefit from this supplement.

Silicon for stronger joints, tendons and bands

Silicon is the building material of connective tissue and is also very important for the joints and bones of your horse. Silicon plays an important role in bone formation and cartilage maintenance. The mineral silicon is also necessary for the health of tendons, ligaments and muscle attachments. Horses that receive silicon as a supplement are less susceptible to injuries, research shows. Silicon is only easily absorbable for horses in the hydrolysed (liquid) form. If you miss glucosamine in this story about joint problems in horses, silicon stimulates the body's own glucosamine production and is often a better choice than a glucosamine supplement.

Cannabinoids for anti-inflammatory and pain relief

To support the health of your horse and to reduce pain complaints, you can also use cannabinoids to tackle joint problems. Many joint problems have an inflammatory response. Cannabinoids have a high therapeutic value as an anti-inflammatory. Often times, a vet will also prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs in combination with pain killers. The advantage of cannabinoids is that it is a 100% natural anti-inflammatory. In addition, they support the so-called 'endocannabinoid system'. Scientists have discovered that the balance in the body of vertebrates (including horses and humans) is largely regulated by the endocannabinoid system. This is a network of receptors that are distributed throughout the body. Receptors are a type of "switch" that can be pressed, after which the brain picks up this signal and can send a "solution" to the identified problem. A cannabinoid is a substance that can bind to the cannabinoid receptors in the body. These substances are the signal substances of the endocannabinoid system, so they ensure that the switches are "pressed". If there are too few cannabinoids, this signaling therefore works less well. The body produces cannabinoids itself, but can also absorb them from food or supplements. A number of plants produce rich amounts of cannabinoids. Cannabis (weed) is the best known of these, but cloves also produce CBD and other cannabinoids. By absorbing cannabinoids from plants (phyto-cannabinoids) you can quickly restore the endocannabinoid system and the body's own recovery capacity. Cannabidoids can help with pain relief, increased resistance, inflammation (including in the joints), stress and problems with muscles and bones. Cannabidol can therefore be a part of tackling joint problems and stiffness in your horse.

Conclusion: choose the right combination for joint problems

For example, horses that suffer from stiffness and joint problems may have osteoarthritis, crystals of uric acid or inflammation in the joints. Because it can be difficult to determine exactly what is going on, it is sometimes easier to just see which supplement works for your horse. There are three types of supplements that can support your horse with joint problems:
  • Herbal products: improves synovial fluid and prevents crystals from depositing in the joints.
  • Biologically absorbable silicon for building muscles, tendons, bands, cartilage and bone. Silicon stimulates the body's own production of glucosamine.
  • Cannabinoids to help reduce inflammation, pain and stress and restore balance to the horse's body.
Maybe one supplement is enough, maybe a combination works better for your horse. Most of the times we advise for younger horses who are active in the sport to combine Silicon with Herbs. For older horses we advise to combine Silicon with Cannabinoids. If you have any questions or need more advice, you can always contact us!   Sources:
  1. I. Bayeva & G. F. Zhegunov. Influence of physical and emotional activity on the metabolic profile of blood serum of race horses. 2016.Biosystems Diversity Vol 24 No 2. doi.org/10.15421/011665
  2. D. Nielsen, G. D. Potter, E. L. Morris et al.. Training distanceto failure in young racing quarter horses fed sodium zeolite A. Journal of Equine Veterinary S cience,vol.13,no.10,pp.562–567,1993.
Training distance to failure in young racing quarter horses fed sodium zeolite A Charles T. Price, Kenneth J. Koval, and Joshua R. Langford. 2013. Silicon: A Review of Its Potential Role in the Prevention and Treatment of Postmenopausal Osteoporosis. International Journal of Endocrinology, Vol 2013. https://www.scienceopen.com/document_file/35a4be73-4673-4f19-8ebb-3e2723201c0d/PubMedCentral/35a4be73-4673-4f19-8ebb-3e2723201c0d.pdf Mark JS Miller, Komal Mehta,Sameer Kunte, Vidyanand Raut, Jayesh Gala, Ramesh Dhumale, Anil Shukla, Hemant Tupalli, Himanshu Parikh, Paul Bobrowski, and Jayesh Chaudhary. Early relief of osteoarthritis symptoms with a natural mineral supplement and a herbomineral combination: A randomized controlled trial. 2005. Journal of Inflammation V2, 2005. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1276811/ Reffitt DM, Ogston N, Jugdaohsingh R, Cheung HF, Evans BA, Thompson RP, Powell JJ, Hampson GN. Orthosilicic acid stimulates collagen type 1 synthesis and osteoblastic differentiation in human osteoblast-like cells in vitro. Bone. 2003 Feb; 32 (2): 127-35. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12633784

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