Antioxidants to Maximize Muscle Repair in Horses

With the exhilaration and excitement that intense exercise brings comes inflammation and oxidative injury to muscles, which is why antioxidants are a favorite supplement among owners and trainers of athletic horses. While controlled inflammation following exercise helps muscles heal, excess oxidative stress, and the subsequent production of harmful free radicals does not.

According to a group of Canadian researchers*, “There is interplay between oxidative stress, inflammation, and immune function that has important implications for how and what we feed horses and when best to exercise, train, and compete horses.â€

Faced with the wide array of antioxidant and muscle-building supplements, many owners wonder which supplements are effective and which are not.

To help answer this question, the Canadian research team put a product to the test. The product was fed to a group of horses for 23 days as part of their normal diet. Horses underwent a standardized, repeated high-intensity exercise test that was performed before supplementation and on day 22 of supplementation. Throughout the study, various measures of oxidative stress were assessed.

The nutritional supplement contained dried mushrooms, golden flaxseed, omega-3 fatty acids (both DHA and EPA), plant-based enzymes, a melon-concentrated powder, and the probiotic Saccharomyces cerevisiae boulardii.

Researchers found that supplemented horses had:

  • Reduced concentrations of markers of oxidative stress;
  • No change in markers of muscle injury; and
  • No difference in indicators of inflammation.

Based on these results, the study authors concluded that the experimental product had merit as a nutritional supplement designed to combat oxidative stress, inflammation, and even enhance immune function.

“Products containing omega-3 fatty acids rather than the more pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids are certainly expected to contribute to the merits of such a supplement, in addition to the benefits attributable to probiotics,†affirmed Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., an equine nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research (KER).

Crandell added, “KER offers the omega-3 fatty acid supplement EO•3, appropriate for horses of all activity levels, from weekend trail horses to endurance horses and racehorses. In addition, the company markets Nano•E, a natural-source, water-soluble vitamin E supplement that features an effective nanodispersion delivery system.â€

As always, choose a nutritional supplement carefully to minimize any potential detriments associated with poor quality products, including contamination.

*Lindinger, M.I., J.M. MacNicol, N. Karrow, et al. 2017. Effects of a novel dietary supplement on indices of muscle injury and articular GAG release in horses. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science. 48:52-60.