Injuries to ligaments and tendons in horses are common. And while we cannot totally prevent these issues from happening, we can be proactive in nutritionally supporting the connective tissue. If an injury does occur, there are methods of treatment, modalities, and nutritional support that can help the connective tissues heal.
Function and structure of connective tissue:
Tendons join muscle to bone, while ligaments join bone to bone. Both ligaments and tendons in horses have the same basic structure and are made from the same basic tissue. Most tendons are designed as flexor or extensor. Flexor tendons allow a joint to bend, and extensor tendons allow a joint to extend.
Ligaments are the stabilizing structures that help hold bones together and stop them from over-flexing or over-rotating.
The collagen connection:
Collagen is the main structural protein of ligaments and tendons in horses. One of the best foods to support collagen is Chia, because Chia is high in the amino acid proline, the major constituent of collagen.
Another major component of collagen is glycine. Two important foods with high glycine content are kale and alfalfa.
Other Foods for tendons and ligaments:
Bioflavonoids, also known as vitamin P, have an interesting role in supporting collagen because bioflavonoids inhibit the destruction of collagen and support repair by cross-linking collagen fibers and reinforcing the connective tissue matrix. Food sources for horses include: blueberries, spirulina and other blue green algae, cinnamon, oranges, Indian Gooseberry (known as Amalaki), apples, and acai berries.
Omega 3’s are important for the maintenance of connective tissue because they can inhibit the inflammatory cytokines. Flax, Chia seeds, and Camelina oil are excellent sources of this important fatty acid. Fresh pasture grass is a very good source of omega 3’s, and though hay does contain omega 3, processing and storage of hay significantly reduces omega 3 content.
Sulfur is an important mineral, which when combined with the amino acid Glutamine help facilitate cartilage repair and collagen production. Best food sources for horses: kale for sulfur, and cabbage for glutamine.
Support for horses with connective tissue injury:
When your horse has been diagnosed with a suspensory strain or tear, or a tendon strain or tear, the first line of healing is going to be cold therapy and stall rest. Because of confinement, most horse owners immediately cut back on the feed. But here is the critical component: to heal, the body needs more protein. So what often happens is that as the feed is reduced, the body then starts to pull protein from other places: hindquarters, neck, topline. Horses lose muscle, not just because they are not working, but because the body is utilizing more protein in order to heal. It is wise to cut down on grains when on stall rest, but make sure an adequate supply of protein is available: alfalfa pellets (15% protein) along with a mixed hay providing at least 10-12% protein is important. Alfalfa hay may be too high in protein for a horse recovering from injury and may make them a little too energetic.
Bovine Colostrum is my go-to for horses with connective tissue injuries. With over 70 different Growth Factors, bovine colostrum supports cellular repair so it can help to accelerate healing.
Often shock wave therapy is recommended for injuries to ligaments or tendons in horses. Shock wave increases circulation, which is how the body efficiently heals.
Increased circulation drives nutrients and proteins to the injured area. You can support increased circulation by feeding foods high in the amino acid Arginine, which stimulates the production of Nitric Oxide, the master circulatory molecule in the body. Foods high in Arginine include: pumpkin seeds, brewers yeast, oranges, sesame seeds, almonds. Biostar’s Furnace provides arginine-rich foods to support circulation.
Vitamin C is important for the healing process, because it can covert proline into the hydroxyl form that is used to build collagen. While horses do make their own vitamin C, it is advisable when recovering from injury of tendons or ligaments to increase vitamin C. While there are lots of choices of ascorbic acid and other forms of vitamin C available in supplements, there are great food choices: papaya, strawberries, oranges, kiwifruit, kale, cantaloupe, Indian Gooseberry, fresh parsley, and fresh basil.
Other nutrients for healing:
Silica is found in connective tissue, skin, bone, hair as well as glands like the thymus and adrenals. Silica is a mineral present in water, and soil; but due to industrial farming some of the microbe species that solubilise this mineral have disappeared so our plants have less access to this mineral. Clays like calcium bentonite, smectite, and kaolin all supply the mineral silica.
Copper and Zinc are important minerals for connective tissue because zinc is required for protein synthesis and copper is required for the naturation of collagen. Many multi vitamin/mineral supplements supply these two minerals. Food sources include Spirulina, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds.
There are many supplements on the market that are specifically for connective tissues. With so many choices, sometimes it’s hard to pick one. If you are looking for whole food support for connective tissue, Biostar’s Ligatend provides the foods including rBGH-free bovine colostrum that support maintenance and repair of ligaments and tendons in horses, like chia seeds, organic orange powder, whole almond powder, and organic kale powder.
Give the body what it needs to heal and repair.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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