Presently, there are in excess of 50 supplements that are presented as aids/cures to numerous joint problems in our horses. Many consumers are understandably confused by the various ingredients, dosage levels, combinations, etc. Many manufacturers offer a bewildering array of different products all addressing the same basic issue, which is to provide a non-invasive product that will help support the horse's ability to remain sound.
In choosing a product, I believe there are certain basic criteria that will immediately narrow down the choices. First, on comparing various products, can you the horse-owner, without a calculator, determine from the label what you would be feeding your horse on a daily basis? Secondly, is there a complete list of ingredients and a guaranteed analysis? And finally, is there a lot number and/or an expiration date on the product? If these basic requirements are not evident, I would consider that to be a major red flag.
There has been an explosion in liquid products in the last two years -- claiming dramatic improvement in absorption and fast results. At Grand Meadows we looked long and hard at making a liquid product, but ultimately decided against it, because we felt that dosage accuracy and shelf life of liquids have some serious question marks. If you look at the human nutritional market, 95% of products are sold in tablet or powder form and we believe there are good reasons for this.
The various ingredients, Glucosamine, Chondroitin Sulfate, Perma Mussel, Cetyl Myristoleate, Yucca, Gelatin, Devils Claw, MSM, etc. go on and on. There is no published evidence, contrary to one particular company's claim, that any of these ingredients have a clinical effect on equine joint disease other than pain management. Dr. Wayne McIlwraith, President of the AAEP (American Academy of Equine Practitioners) and one of the world's experts on equine joint disease, has been quoted on a number of occasions confirming the lack of studies. The only study that clearly demonstrates strong clinical evidence is a study conducted using Glucosamine on human patients with osteoarthritis in the knee. This was a three-year study, conducted at the University of Liege, where it was discovered that the non-placebo group did not experience additional narrowing of cartilage. The problem is that we cannot draw proof from that research because of the differences in digestive systems, etc., between horses and man. On the other hand, the anecdotal evidence appears to be overwhelming that there are benefits to feeding a well-designed product to high performance or aging horses. We believe that Glucosamine is the preferred ingredient. It has been shown to be highly absorbable, a significant drawback with Chondroitin Sulfate.
We do not believe that there is a substantial difference in results between Glucosamine Hydrochloride and Glucosamine Sulfate and the majority of the other ingredients touted, in our opinion, offer primarily anti-inflammatory benefits. What we do consider essential for a product to work is the inclusion of supporting nutrients to enhance the delivery and effectiveness of the glycosaminoglycan ingredient. A comprehensive assortment of anti-oxidants, minerals and amino acids are, in our opinion (based on informal field studies), essential to maximizing the beneficial effects of this type of product.
In summary, beware of unrealistic claims, ask questions of the various manufacturers and if you do not get satisfactory answers, move on. There is definitely a place for these products and clearly many people are using them to good effect - just try not to be naive in making a purchasing decision.
Nick Hartog, co-owner of Grand Meadows, is passionate about the equine supplement industry. He started the National Association of Equine Supplement Manufacturers (NAESM) and is the current President. The NAESM was formed for the express purpose of improving ethics, manufacturing and labeling standards and providing a forum for discussion regarding the issues affecting the manufacture, marketing and distribution of equine supplements. Mr. Hartog was educated in England, receiving a degree from Oxford University in Economics, and now lives in Newport Beach, California, with his wife and four children.Grand Meadows Nutritional Products, Inc. - founded in 1989 Ñ focuses on improving the quality and effectiveness of equine supplements, while at the same time striving to keep their products affordable for the average horse-owner. Grand Meadows is recognized throughout the industry as a company that places ethics and customer service on the same level as the manufacturing and promotion of their products. The company recently introduced a line of veterinary-only products for small animals, as well as horses, under the brand name Lubrichon.