Keeping Your Horse’s Joints Fluid & Functional

April 13, 2024

Whether it is your old, retired horse or your performance horse they are a very important aspect of your life, both as companions and competitors, and you want to maintain their comfort to the best of your ability. The time and effort put into training and caring for your horse is immense. So, you want your horse to live a long, healthy, athletic life. However, horses’ joints can be taxed heavily. So, it is our job to provide our horses with preventative care and maintenance of their joints. Oral joint supplements help to slow the progression and improve symptoms of osteoarthritis and, therefore, can help lengthen your horse’s performance life, and help keep them comfortable in retirement. There are many supplements on the market that provide joint therapy. Glucosamine, MSM, hyaluronic acid (HA), and complete vitamin-mineral supplements will aid in preventing and managing osteoarthritis. After reading this article, when you walk into your local Wilco Farm Store next time you will know a little bit more about ingredients that are important for joint health.

Bag of Trifecta horse supplement on wood fence of paddock with out


Glucosamine is one of the building blocks of cartilage and other connective tissues throughout a horse’s body that help to lubricate and act as shock absorbers in joints. However, wear and tear takes its toll on joints and degrades naturally occurring glucosamine and glycoaminoglycans as osteoarthritis progresses. The anti-inflammatory properties of oral glucosamine have been shown to stimulate the production of glycoaminoglycans, helping joints to better lubricate and absorb shock. Glucosamine has been shown in numerous studies to benefit arthritic horses. Joint motion and stride length increases in arthritic horses when supplemented with glucosamine. Increased motion and stride length signifies less inflammation in the horses’ joints, which will allow your horses to perform and live life more comfortably.


Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a sulfur-containing compound that plays a role in antioxidant function and connective tissue health. The sulfur in MSM is involved in the integrity of collagen, glucosamine, cartilage, and joint fluid. It is crucial in the formation of cross-bridges between collagen molecules, which add strength and stability to the structure of collagen-rich tendons, ligaments, joint tissues, and connective tissue. MSM’s antioxidant properties also help to reduce oxidative stress for horses during intense exercise. Finally, the anti-inflammatory properties of MSM also help to inhibit cartilage glycoaminoglycans degradation, helping to slow the progress of osteoarthritis.

Bag of Trifecta horse supplement on ground in round pen while western equestrian rides out

Hyaluronic Acid (HA)

HA is a member of glycoaminoglycans that is found in healthy joint fluid and cartilage. HA gives viscosity to joint fluid and suppleness to cartilage. In inflamed joints, HA breaks down and the joint fluid becomes more watery, making the joint less lubricated. In the cartilage, HA forms a complex with aggrecan (another glycosaminoglycan) that keeps the cartilage flexible and resistant to being overly compressed. Studies show that horses receiving hyaluronic acid each day have less joint swelling and fewer examinations by veterinarians due to lameness.

Complete Vitamin-Mineral Supplement

A complete vitamin-mineral supplement will help to provide other crucial components to healthy joints, such as copper, zinc, manganese, and vitamin C and E. Copper is required for the production of normal connective tissues, which include tendons and ligaments, and the framework of bones and cartilage lining of the joints. Zinc functions as an antioxidant that helps to remove free radicals that damage tissues and cause inflammation. Manganese is essential in the body’s ability to produce chondroitin sulfate, which maintains normal joint cartilage and repairs cartilage. Vitamin C and E function as antioxidants that protect tissues and are necessary for collagen formation and nerve function.

Bag of Trifecta horse supplement on bales of alfalfa with leather bridle

What Products to Consider

When considering a joint supplement for your horse, and to ensure that your horse is receiving the best joint support possible, look at the ingredients list. Make sure that the joint supplement has glucosamine, MSM, and HA. Providing your horse a complete vitamin and mineral supplement will also ensure they are receiving copper, zinc, manganese, and vitamin C and E. If you are looking for an all-inclusive supplement, Trifecta is a great option. Trifecta contains a complete vitamin-mineral supplement, hoof supplement, gut supplement, and a great joint supplement with 5,000 mg of glucosamine, 5,000 mg of MSM, and 100 mg of HA per dose. If you are already feeding a vitamin-mineral supplement but would like to add a joint supplement Flaxen Flex Guard is a great option for you, with the anti-inflammatory base of flaxseed cake, it also contains glucosamine, chondroitin, HA, vitamin E, vitamin C, zinc and MSM.

Scoop of equine supplements in rubber feed pan

Putting It All Together

When looking at the whole picture it is important that we build a synergistic plan for our arthritic or performance horse. Exercise and movement are important components for joint health. Slow, long warm ups and cool downs are good to help keep the body limber and provide relief to stiff joints. Exercise helps to maintain muscle mass which is important for joint stability. By pairing exercise and a great nutritional program that contains joint support and a complete vitamin and mineral supplement you are protecting your investment as well as your companion, ensuring that you have a happy, healthy horse for years to come.

Kelsey J. Nonella, Ph.D., P.A.S.
Equine Nutritionist
Horse Guard, Inc.

About the Author
Kelsey J. Nonella, Ph.D. is an equine nutritionist who has competitively ridden her whole life. She, her husband, and two girls raise, train, and compete on their herd of 20 horses that range from babies to performance horses to retired horses. Kelsey is passionate about helping to educate horse owners to ensure happy, healthy horses.