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Athletic competition often requires horses to run, jump, turn, start and stop, placing an enormous strain on the skeletal system. As such, a performance horse may fail to reach its athletic potential because of injuries and diseases of joints, which are the most common causes of lameness. As joint problems can be a limiting factor in career longevity of athletic horses, care and maintenance of joints are a major concern among horsemen.
Many options exist for treating joint disease in horses. The major treatment goals are to reduce inflammation, to improve joint fluid and to improve cartilage. Treatments to accomplish these goals generally fall into two categories: physical therapies and medical therapies. Physical therapies include rest, bandaging, application of heat, application of cold, and mild, controlled exercise to maintain range of motion.
Medical treatment options for horses with joint disease attempt to replace some of the natural constituents of joint fluid and/or cartilage, with the hope that the body could use those building blocks to restore normal joint function. The first product used was hyaluronate, a proteoglycan and an important component of joint fluid and joint cartilage that can be injected directly into the joint or administered orally. A common ingredient in joint supplements is Glucosamine due to its main action of stimulating the manufacture of substances necessary for joint synthesis. Researchers have found that glucosamine is the key precursor for all the various sugars found in GAGs and further, that glucosamine occupies the pivotal position in connective tissue synthesis by stimulating collagen production.
Glucosamine HCI has the advantage of being more absorbable than other GAGs products currently available such as chondroitin sulphate, shark cartilage and N-acetyl-glycosamine (NAG). The molecules in these products are up to 250 times larger than those of Glucosamine HCI, thereby making their absorption far less effective and reliable. Glucosamine HCI contains more glucosamine per molecule than the Glucosamine Sulphate Complex, as can been seen in the graph. Products in the Australian market containing Glucosamine HCL, include HYGAIN TRU CARE®, HYGAIN® EQUINE SENIOR® and HYGAIN® FLEXION®.
In addition to chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine, other ingredients necessary for synthesis of joint tissues are included in oral joint supplements, such as MSM (methylsulfonylmethane), copper, zinc, manganese and vitamin C. MSM is a source of sulfur, a component that is necessary to strengthen collagen. The trace minerals copper, zinc and manganese are each involved as cofactors for synthetic production of joint materials. Finally, vitamin C is necessary for collagen formation.
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