Due to habitual weight-loading of limbs during training and competition, “bone fatigue” can occur in athletic horses, placing them at risk for injuries, including complete fractures. In addition to tailoring training programs to meet each horse’s individual needs, another common means of maintaining bone health involves nutritional supplementation.
“Many products on the market claim to support bone health, but few of these are high-quality supplements that truly benefit the horse,” said Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a Kentucky Equine Research nutritionist.
When should you consider supplements to maximize bone health?
Based on the findings of a study on Australian racehorses*, supplementation should occur early in a horse’s career, prior to any injury or trauma.
Researchers looked at horses diagnosed with tibial and humeral fractures to identify risk factors for fractures and to pinpoint which ones were potentially preventable. The tibia is the gaskin bone, while the humerus is the arm bone, which links the shoulder and forearm bones.
Humeral fractures were more likely to be fatal, according to the study, but both tibial and humeral fractures typically occurred in young horses newly introduced to competition or those coming back to training and competition after time off.
“Given when these fractures occurred, supplementation should start early in a horse’s career, and continue even during layoff, to ensure they receive all the nutrients required to support bone health during training and competition,” advised Crandell.
DuraPlex provides vitamins and minerals necessary for strong bone development, including a special protein that stimulates bone collagen production while suppressing bone destruction. DuraPlex also prevents bone loss in situations that cause bone demineralization, such as limited turnout is available or recuperative stall rest.
Triacton is a triple-action supplement designed to improve bone density through an array of bone-building nutrients, which also have been shown to support stomach and hindgut health. Triacton contains a novel source of calcium, which is proven to be more highly digestible than other forms of the mineral, including calcium carbonate.
“For bone health, you can’t go wrong with either product. For athletic horses prone to gastrointestinal issues, Triacton would be the supplement of choice because of its buffering capabilities,” advised Crandell. “Supplementation as a precautionary measure is sound nutritional strategy for equine athletes of all types, not just racehorses.”
Australian horse owners should look for Bone Food Plus, a vitamin and mineral supplement designed specifically to optimize skeletal health.
*Whitton, R.C., E.A. Walmsley, A.S.M. Wong, et al. 2019. Associations between pre-injury racing history and tibial and humeral fractures in Australian Thoroughbred racehorses. Veterinary Journal. 247:44-49.