The effects of three-month oral supplementation with a nutraceutical and exercise on the locomotor pattern of aged horses

M. H. Higler, H. Brommer, J. J. L'Ami, J. C. de Grauw, M. Nielen, P. R. van Weeren, S. Laverty, A. Barneveld and W. Back
September 2014
Equine Veterinary Journal


Reasons for performing study

Multiple in vitro studies assessing articular tissues have indicated that glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate may possess anti-inflammatory effects, but little is known of their clinical effects in vivo. Many old horses have stiff joints, which is likely to be attributable to inflammation and therapy with these nutraceutical compounds could improve joint function.


To assess the clinical effects of a mixed supplement on the improvement of stiff gait in aged horses.

Study design

Randomised, blinded, placebo-controlled study.


A group of 24 geriatric equids (age 29 ± 4 years; mean ± s.d.) received either 3 months oral supplementation with a test compound (containing glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate and methyl sulfonyl methane), or a placebo. Kinematic outcome criteria (primary: stride length; secondary: carpal flexion, fore fetlock extension and tarsal range of motion) were objectively quantified on a treadmill at a walk and trot before and after treatment.


Stride length did not change significantly in the treated horses at the end of the trial. In the control group, carpal flexion and fore fetlock extension were significantly increased (P<0.05).


There were no indications of effect of the supplement on gait characteristics. The observations in the control group may have been due to a habituation or exercise effect. This study does not support the use of a glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate/methyl sulfonyl methane supplement to improve stiff gait in geriatric horses because of the lack of a sizeable effect. The significant changes in gait parameters in the control group may indicate the usefulness of exercise regimens in older horses.