Providing Nutritional Support for the Equine Skeletal System

Throughout a horse's life, bone adapts and changes continually in relationship to its environment. Osteochondrosis (OCD) is the failure of the bone to develop strong cross-linkage of collagen fibers (which affects the cartilage) and is most commonly caused by poor nutrition, mechanical trauma, and rapid growth, with nutrition being the most important. Lesions caused by OCD can result in serious lameness and might show only when the horse is stressed. According to research done by Colorado State University, 55.9% of the horses presented to them with OCD were less than a year old.

Although genetics play a strong role in the growth and development of a foal, how can you influence your horse's health pre- and post-conception to ensure he or she develops and maintains healthy bones and joints? Jack Grogan, CN, chief science officer for Uckele Health & Nutrition, has formulated nutritional supplements to support healthy joint, bone, and connective tissue function.

Grogan explains, "Although factors such as (being) overweight, prolonged or intense activity, and improper shoeing can contribute toward the likelihood of developing OCD, addressing the daily nutritional requirements in the development of cartilage and bone, regardless of age, is of primary importance.

"It is particularly beneficial to begin with the necessary nutritional requirements during early periods of growth and development for the formation of a strong skeletal system," Grogan continues. "Meeting the nutritional demands of the fetal skeletal system while mares are pregnant can support stronger bone development for foals. Increasing specific trace mineral complexes during the accelerated growth period of weanlings is especially helpful in building a firm foundation, and continuing nutritional support as bone development and density increases for yearlings is very effective."

Performance horses in competition and training encounter increased stress on bones and the associated cartilage, and require nutritional support for a stronger bone matrix with increased bone density. And finally, mature and older horses that are experiencing a degree of joint pain due to previous injuries or simply age can experience a better quality of life with the addition of nutritional supplements to their daily diet.

Nutritional ingredients that provide balanced nutritional support for healthy joints, bones, and connective tissue function are:

  • The essential proteins and amino acids supply nutrients for a solid bone protein matrix foundation. These include bioactive whey, hydrolyzed collagen proteins, lysine, proline, isoleucine, alanine, and glycine. These work synergistically to support protein synthesis, improve collagen formation, and supply structural proteins for optimal skeletal density.
  • The minerals silica, strontium, zinc, copper, calcium, manganese, and boron nutritionally support healthy calcium incorporation into bone tissue, optimal bone protein formation, and antioxidant mechanisms that reduce internal pro-oxidative stresses that can significantly reduce bone density and health.
  • The enzyme SOD (super oxide dismutase) also reduces internal pro-oxidative stresses and is made in the body in part from the minerals zinc, copper, and manganese.
  • The connective tissue support ingredients glucosamine HCL, chondroitin sulfate, and hyaluronic acid further contribute to a healthy bone protein matrix, as well as supporting the associated joints, tendons, ligaments, and joint buffer tissues.
  • Vitamin D3 and vitamin C support healthy bone protein synthesis and a healthy incorporation of calcium into the bone.
  • The herbal botanical product yucca supports healthy detoxification mechanisms and supports the natural antioxidant systems.

About the Author

Uckele Health and Nutrition

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