What is it?
Glucosamine is an amino-sugar – it is manufactured in the body from glucose and protein. The greatest amount of glucosamine will be found in joint tissues, where it is used as a building block of cartilage, collagen, joint fluid and tendons and ligaments.
Where does it come from?
There are several types of glucosamine available commercially. Most of these are extracts of shellfish, as glucosamine is also a major component of their exo-skeletons (prawn & crab shells). A vegetarian version is also available, which is made from the fermentation of cereals. On product labels, you will generally see either Glucosamine Sulphate or Glucosamine Hydrochloride listed. As well as a difference in their manufacturing method, there is a big difference in actual glucosamine content. Glucosamine Sulphate is generally only about 60% actual glucosamine, where as Glucosamine HCl is nearly 99% glucosamine. Care should be taken when choosing a supplement – if the product contains glucosamine sulphate, you could be feeding considerably less actual glucosamine than you think!
What does it do?
The joint structures are designed to constantly repair and renew by a natural process. As well as being involved with the actual repair, Glucosamine also acts as a ‘switch on’ signal to stimulate repair, and suppresses inflammation. Our horse’s joints are designed to withstand daily wear and tear, but availability of glucosamine will decline with age, and demand may outstrip supply for horses in hard work. Under these circumstances, the horse may benefit from additional glucosamine in his diet.
How much should I feed?
It is likely that glucosamine is not 100% bioavailable – in other words, not all of what our horse eats will be absorbed and utilised. However, it is generally considered that 10g (10,000mg) is enough on a daily basis to support horses showing signs of joint stress, and that approximately 5g (5000mg) works well as a long term maintenance level. Some research has also suggested that glucosamine may be more beneficial when used in conjunction with chondroitin sulphate. Additional MSM will also give complementary support to overall joint health.