Does my horse need joint supplements?
Most of my clients want to know if their horse needs a joint supplement. Or if the joint supplement that their horse is taking is working.
Some horses need joint supplements. They may be very hard-working, have some arthritis, or are weekend warriors. But let me tell you a little secret...
The negative-feedback cycle (or why not to take eyedrops)
One day my elderly dad went to the optometrist to ask for advice about dry eyes. He said to the optometrist, "I've used these drops and they used to help a lot. But lately I've had to use more and more. I'm wondering if there is a better product?"
The optometrist explained to my dad that it's the body's job to produce tears for eye lubrication. When my dad added "tears" to the eyes, the eyes then tell the body, "Hey I've got plenty of eye lubrication over here. No need to make more right now."
So the body doesn't make any more tears. This is called a negative feedback cycle. (The optometrist recommended backing slowly off the eyedrops and worked to discover the real cause of his dry eyes---which turned out in his case to be lack of omega-3 vitamins.)
When we add joint supplements (aka joint fluid) to horses that don't need joint fluid at that time, they may make LESS joint fluid. Then, guess what? We need to keep giving them their joint supplements. If they are taken off the joint supplements, they may seem stiff or may not perform as well.
Studies show that it takes at least 30 days for the body to catch-up and start making the right amounts of joint fluid again.
Let me be clear: I'm not against giving horse's joint supplements. If your horse needs joint supplements for whatever reason, use them. They're great products. Just be sure your horse needs them first.
How to check your horse's joints
1. Do Body Checkups on your horse.
Body Checkups are very simple. You can quickly check your horse's joints to see if the joints are working in their normal "range-of-motion." If they're not working normally, try a joint supplement for a month (see below), and do the Body Checkups again. If there is improvement, great! That's when to use a joint supplement---when it's needed and when it works for your horse.
Body Checkup videos are available here.
2. Try a good joint supplement and look for noticeable improvement.
You can give one shot of intravenous Legend (given by your vet) and see if there is any improvement. Legend should ideally be given as a series of shots initially (often one per week for 3-4 weeks), and then monthly. However, you will get 75-80% of the improvement expected with the first shot.
If you see NO noticeable improvement with one shot of Legend, then I would recommend you seek a different answer to the problem you are trying to solve.
You can also try any of the many oral products out there for joint support. Just remember that you'll need to try the product for 30 to 60 days before it is taking maximum effect.
After 60 days, if you see NO noticeable improvement, again I recommend you seek a different answer. In this case, it may be a different oral product, or the shot of Legend.
Keep in mind: Studies are showing that horses over twelve may not absorb oral joint products as well as younger horses do.