Using Natural Supplements for the Equine Musculoskeletal System

This is the fourth installment in my Natural Supplements series. If you would like to learn about Using Natural Supplements for Digestive Health , Using Natural Supplements for Nervous System Health or Using Natural Supplements for Immune System Health just click on these links. This article will cover how we can use Herbs, Essential Oils and "Other" natural supplements to address issues with joints and soft tissue issues. Who doesn’t worry about their hard working or aging horse’s joints, tendons and ligaments? A horse owner’s goal should be to protect and support the horse’s muscles, tendons and bones.


In order to keep your horse's Equine Musculoskeletal System healthy, horse owners should start with:

  • Proper diet- make sure there is enough protein in the diet as protein repairs
  • Do not over work- make sure your horse is in the correct amount of work for their current condition and age.
  • Saddle fit- always get a saddle evaluation and remember as your horse's body changes so will his saddle fit.
  • Proper shoeing- with improper shoeing a horse will carry themself differently and put stress on joints
  • Proper weight- obesity is really hard on equine joints. Make sure your horse is a healthy body condition score
If you have done all the things you can, but are dealing with some musculoskeletal issues or are looking to prevent them, here are a few Natural Supplements you can try to help:
  • Support healthy connective tissue
  • Maintain joint mobility
  • Support the normal production of healthy synovial fluid
  • Reduce free radical formation

HERBS As herbivores, it is natural for horses to seek out and eat herbs, such as comfrey, red clover, garlic, dandelion and nettle, which have healing properties in their seeds, flowers, roots, stems or leaves. Generally speaking herbs are used for chronic, long-standing problems and often can allow your vet to reduce the amounts of pharmaceutical drugs they use on your horse. Remember that when using herbs to only buy products designed for horses unless you are working with an herbalist. There are many great products made just for horses. Click here to see what Horse Hippie carries.

Meadowsweet- contains an aspirin-like compound and has valuable anti-inflammatory properties.

Comfrey- has a reputation for healing bone damage, such as sore shins, chipped knees, stress fractures and arthritis as well as tendon strains.

Burdock- anti-inflammatory and reduces excess fluid.

Devil’s Claw- anti-inflammatory- known as ‘herbal bute’–it’s well known for it’s analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. Do not use if gastric ulcers present

White Willow- contains salicylic acid in bark = aspirin.

Yarrow- good for navicular because it improves blood circulation to peripheral blood vessels.

Devil's Claw
ESSENTIAL OILS Remember when working with horses and essential oils to let the horse decide which oil to use. Before you use an oil, hold the open bottle (or some oil dabbed on a cotton ball) close to the horse’s nose so he can sniff it. His reaction to the oil will let you know whether you should use it or not. There are two basic ways you can use essential oils with your horse–
  • topical application.
  • aromatherapy and

Make sure you use 100% pure oils and not perfume grade oils. Perfume quality oils can cause more harm than good because they contain chemicals and solvents. Always dilute with a carrier oil such as coconut, avocado, or sweet almond oil, or even aloe vera gel (for a less greasy effect).

Essential Oils For Muscle Spasms:

  • Basil
  • Lavender
  • Marjoram
Essential Oils Sore/ Overused Muscles:
  • Eucalyptus
  • Balsam Fir
  • Lavender
Balsam-Fir Balsam Fir Oil
Use oils that are designed to be used on horses. Click here to see what essential oils Horse Hippie carries. There is one "other" category of Natural Supplements I look to for help with the equine musculoskeletal system and it is whole foods and vitamins and minerals. Many of you may already be using some of these as they are the most common type of supplement for joint and tendon issues.
  • Glucosamine sulphate and glucosamine hydrochloride- Glucosamine , is a natural substance that is found in the covering of shellfish. It is an amino sugar and sulphate and hydrochloride are the two salts it is combined with.
  • Chondroitin is another component of cartilage (as well as bone and some connectivetissues) that is also commonly used in joint supplements. Chondroitin sulfateis usually manufactured from animal sources, such as shark and cow cartilage.
  • MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane) a derivative of DMSO, it is a great source of dietary sulfur, a mineral involved in the health and maintenance of collagen, cartilage, hooves, as well as joint fluid and many important enzymes.
  • Kelp- seaweed- generates natural products known as honaucins, which have potent anti-inflammation and bacteria-controlling properties.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar- reduces calcification in joints and arteries.
  • Yucca- Yucca contains steroid saponins. These chemicals are related to the steroids. In the animal's body they decrease pain and inflammation.

Cautions for using these supplements: ~ Some joint supplement ingredients such as glucosamine, yucca, and MSM can worsen symptoms of insulin resistance, equine metabolic syndrome, or Cushing’s disease in horses. ~ Use extreme caution (work with your vet) or avoid these ingredients in these cases. As you can see there are plenty of natural, less chemical, ways to help your horse with any musculoskeletal issues they may be dealing with. Stay tuned for the last installment in this series; "Natural Supplements for Equine Respiratory Health".

If you would like to read other of the installments in this series here are the links:

Peace, and good rides, Laura


The Horse Hippie


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