How Glucosamine Works in Horses

How Glucosamine Works in Horses

Glucosamine might be an effective solution to help preserve a horse’s wellbeing, particularly their joints. Your equine companion might not be able to move efficiently when the animal has poor joint health. Adding glucosamine to your horse’s diet is a common way to address the painful effects of poor joint health.

If your horse is getting older and has had some wear and tear on their bodies, you might be thinking about giving glucosamine supplements to your horse. But, what is glucosamine?  Also, how does this substance work in horses?  This article will help you find the answers to these questions.

An Overview of Glucosamine

Glucosamine is an amino saccharide compound. Equine nutritionist Suzie Middlebrook explains that glucosamine “is believed to have joint-protection properties since it is a known precursor to both hyaluronic acid and glycosaminoglycans.” 

Hyaluronic acid is one of the components that make up the fluid that cushions joints. Glycosaminoglycans are one of the building blocks of cartilage. Middlebrook says that “supplements containing glucosamine sulfate do seem to have a measurable, positive impact on mobility and pain relief” since that compound works to inhibit cartilage and joint fluid loss.

She notes that the form of glucosamine is important. Glucosamine sulfate, as opposed to glucosamine hydrochloride, is much more bioavailable. You can learn more about glucosamine and horses here. 

How Glucosamine Helps Horses

How Glucosamine Works in Horses

Some of the potential benefits of glucosamine, when administered to horses, may include (but are not limited to) the following: 

Helps Reduce Inflammation

The right horse supplement may help boost the animal’s immune system. In particular, glucosamine supplements may activate an equine’s immune functions to combat inflammation. 

Inflammation is the body’s natural response when it combats pathogens or substances that threaten one’s health. However, some cases might make the body’s inflammatory protocols hyperactive, which might be the case for arthritis. 

Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition wherein the immune system thinks it’s combating harmful substances in the joints. In turn, the joints tend to become stiff and swollen, often resulting in pain and discomfort. Many horses can experience these arthritis symptoms, which can significantly limit their mobility. 

Glucosamine supplements may help the animal’s immune function to reduce the impact it has on the joints. In turn, the horse might gain relief from the discomfort brought on by arthritis. You may click here to help start your search for the right glucosamine supplement for your horse. 

Helps Reduce Joint Pain

Pain is a common result of both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, as much in horses as it is in humans. Inflammation leads to a stiffening of joints, which then become painful to move. The degeneration of synovial fluid and cartilage in the joint can also become very painful to horses as the joint starts to lose its cushioning structures. 

By helping to reduce inflammation and delaying the progression of cartilage and fluid loss, glucosamine sulfate can help a horse move more comfortably.

Helps Lubricate Joints

Age and certain health concerns might be contributing factors to stiff joints. Synovial fluid, the lubricant found between joints, may deteriorate over time, causing joints to stiffen and become less flexible. A reduced amount of synovial fluid may lead to bones grinding against each other, increasing the risks of further bone and joint damage. Think of it as two gears trying to move when they don’t have the right amount of lubricant. 

Glucosamine may help the horse’s body produce more synovial fluid to protect the joints from stiffening. Many horse owners use this supplement as a way to help prolong the effects of other joint treatment procedures, like injections. But keep in mind that glucosamine isn’t a cure. It may help promote benefits, but the substance isn’t a ‘magic pill’ that can fix your horse’s joints in one day.  

Helps Protect Cartilage

Cartilage is a flexible tissue that coats the ends of bones, where they meet in a joint. Along with joint fluid, cartilage allows the bones to interact smoothly when a horse (or a person) is in motion. It’s not a permanent structure, though. Certain contributing factors, like age and high-impact activities, can create the conditions for higher-than-average risks of cartilage damage and loss. 

Glucosamine sulfate has been shown to help prevent cartilage breakdown. It’s a chondroprotective substance that slows cartilage loss and may in fact help to restore it.


While it’s possible to pursue other more intensive treatments for equine arthritis, those treatments tend to be expensive. Supplementing your horse’s diet with glucosamine can be a simple and economical way to offer some relief if your horse is suffering from the effects of arthritis.

Administering glucosamine to horses can promote numerous benefits for the joints and overall wellbeing of these animals. This substance may help reduce arthritis symptoms, lubricate joints, and build cartilage. However, be sure to talk to your veterinarian first before giving your horse this supplement so that you can come up with a long-term plan for joint management.

Feature image: Pixabay; Image 1: Pixabay


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