Liquid is “in” for supplements. It offers more flexibility in feeding than powders. Horses on plain grain mixes (no molasses) can be more easily supplemented with a liquid as it adheres better to the grain. Horses on hay only can be treated by oral syringe. You could even spray it on the hay, but unless the horse enjoys the taste and will actively seek out the treated hay you are likely to end up with some waste and erratic dosing this way.
Liquids also are absorbed more quickly, but this is only if the liquid is taken on an empty stomach. Large volumes of fluid are able to pass quickly through the stomach, even if it contains grain or hay, but an ounce or two of fluid will not trigger this bypass, especially if it is absorbed onto the hay or grain before the horse eats it.
Finally, a 1998 Italian study demonstrated that chondroitin sulfate is absorbed more quickly and more efficiently when it is dissolved in a liquid instead of encapsulated. The amount actually absorbed, however, was still relatively low (18% for rats, 12% for humans).
Liquids aren’t perfect, however. They are definitely messier than powders. Residues in the feed tub will support bacterial growth and fermentation more readily, especially in hot weather. If you use a liquid and your horse does not lick his tub clean, cleaning and rinsing between each feeding is a must.
Liquid formulas as a general rule are also less stable than powders and therefore have a shorter shelf life. Stability in liquid is known for some forms of minerals but not for chondroitin or glucosamine. In fact, there isn’t even an officially accepted test for chondroitin and glucosamine yet, so there is no way to tell how long they remain stable in a liquid formulation. Other ingredients, like antioxidant vitamins, may also be less stable in liquid form, and minerals may interact more easily in liquid formulations.
The trick with liquid supplements is to not buy more than you can use in about 30 days, keep them out of the sun and temperature extremes and never buy a supplement that looks like it has been sitting around for a long time. In fact, it doesn’t hurt to ask when the shipment containing your supplement came in or look for a lot number and check with the manufacturer regarding how old the bottle is. (These guidelines are also important with powder supplements or any feed for that matter.)
The horses were primarily high-performance horses in work, with exceptions as noted in the results. Products were fed at recommended levels first. No other type of joint nutraceutical, analgesic or herbal remedy was used during the trials, no change in basic diet was allowed. Level of work and topical leg care (wrapping, etc.) was routinely done for the individual horse. Each product was tried for a minimum of three to four weeks.
We did find the liquids easier to mix evenly into the feed. Acceptance was somewhat better than some powders, if only for horses that object to the fine dust of supplements, regardless of taste. We had no way to tell if the claim that liquids are better absorbed than powders is true or not. However, with the exception of Power-Flex and Corta-Flx Plus, we did not see any difference in the speed with which they worked compared to powders with the same active ingredients.
Corta-Flx Plus is a double-strength combination of Corta-Flx (see May 1999) and the anti-inflammatory/analgesic devil’s claw and yucca in BL Solution (formerly Bute-Less; see January 2000). This product is available only through veterinarians. Like the parent products, Corta-Flx Plus provides obvious improvement within three to five days and was effective for both older horses and horses actively performing.
We did find we needed to use a two-ounce serving instead of one ounce for some severely affected horses in both categories. This was equivalent to the higher “loading” dose of Corta-Flx or severe-pain dose of BL Solution. If this is the case for your horse, we think it is more economical to buy either the regular over-the-counter Corta-Flx (for horses with active synovitis or cartilage lesions) or the BL Solution (for pain from any type of joint pathology) to supplement your Corta-Flx Plus for best results.
Hemoflx (to be released this fall) combines Corta-Flx Plus with a high-quality hematinic for horses that also need help with their blood counts. It, too, gave excellent results in short order. Palatability of both Equine America products was excellent.
Power-Flex is a completely new product that offered relief equivalent to Corta-Flx Plus and within a similar time frame, probably because the major active ingredients are similar. Power Flex also adds glucosamine for that one-two chrondroitin-glucosamine punch many experts feel is important for complete joint support. We found palatability of this product is also excellent.
We were only able to try Fluid Action from Finish Line on one horse as it was a late addition to the trial, but we were impressed. It was given to a five-year-old Thoroughbred who had a bad fall over a jump and was believed to have a back and hip or pelvic problem as a result, with obvious loss of muscle from not using herself well. The injury was old. While on the Fluid Action, the mare’s movement behind became much more elastic and, indeed, fluid. She also had obvious improvement in muscle mass. When taken off the supplement, stiffness/pain rapidly returned.
Next Level approaches the problem from a slightly different angle, using a combination of glucosamine, shark cartilage and Perna. As with the other glucosamine-containing products, we found we had to go to the 7,500 mg to 10,000 mg level of daily intake to get a response (same as for powdered glucosamines). This may be because the glucosamine in powder form is already easily absorbed, so the liquid may not present much of an advantage.
This product took a little longer to work than the chondroitin/glucosamine combinations (about seven days), but it did give excellent results in performance horses. It was not quite as good in horses with old, established arthritis. However, the benefit was evident by about the two-week mark.
Although it certainly smells appealing, and our initial feedings went well, two horses did refuse the product. Rejection of shark cartilage, and to a lesser extent Perna, is a problem with the powders and may have been the reason.
We also had surprisingly good results with EquiSyn, despite the small volume used. This combination of key minerals, amino acids, antioxidant vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids plus chondroitin and mussel extract is given directly by dose syringe rather than mixed in the feed. One eight-year-old, semi-retired horse still in limited use with multiple arthritis problems began to show improvement in gait and general attitude at about the two-week mark. He continued to improve during the remainder of the three to four-week period.
Another older mare with severely arthritic knees who was suffering an active relapse of joint inflammation and pain responded in less than a week. However, we later found out that horse had also been given MSM, so we are not sure what the relative contribution of each may have been. We do know she had been suffering with this for three weeks, with little-to-no response to herbal remedies and other joint nutraceuticals, and failed to respond until the EquiSyn and MSM was given. (We can’t comment on the levels of ingredients in EquiSyn, as the manufacturer would not release them.)
FluidFlex by Farnam boasts a long list of ingredients but most at levels we find low. We had minimal response, even at a double dose, which was not surprising since a double dose amounts to 5,000 mg of glucosamine and 200 mg of glycosaminoglycans. Quadrupling the recommended dose to make it correspond to the levels used in other glucosamine-based supplements did improve the response after three days.
Pro Formula&r squo;s Sound Solution and Equine America’s Super-Flx both worked well when fed at levels equivalent to those used for powdered glucosamines (10,000 mg per day loading dose, drop to 5,000 mg per day for some horses; others, especially high performance, will need to be maintained on 10,000 mg/day). Response was usually evident by the seven-day mark and continued to improve for the next week or so, similar to that we’ve seen with powder supplements.
It’s a tough choice between Select The Best’s Power-Flex and the Corta-Flx Plus. Effectiveness and rapidity of onset are virtually identical. We found both products also provide a slight edge over the original Corta-Flx in horses with longstanding arthritis involving stiffness and chronic joint changes. This is probably due to the yucca and devil’s claw in both products. Both products are also highly palatable.
You may note what appears to be a difference in the price per serving size, however, remember we had to double the Corta-Flx Plus serving for many high-performance horses, which also doubles its price per serving size for us.
The Ester-C in Power-Flex is a plus, but we couldn’t confirm or define the stability of Ester-C in liquid formulas. The combination of glucosamine and GAGs is also theoretically a plus, but it also hasn’t been proven to be superior. Let actual street price be the deciding factor.
Fluid Action from Finish Line may be the sleeper in this group of liquid joing nutraceuticals. Despite being used on a tough case, where no response would not have been surprising, it performed well.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have the opportunity to test it on multiple different problems and horses at different stages of arthritis or in different uses. If price is a concern, preliminary results show this product is worth a try. It took a little longer to work, but this may not be the case if a higher dose is used.
(We covered joint nutraceuticals in November 1997 and May 1999, explaining differences in ingredients, how they work and other products. Back issues at 800/424-8778.)
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