Why is Sulfur Important for Horses?
By J. Frank Gravlee, DVM, MS, CNS and Scott Gravlee, DVM, CNS
The connective tissues of all mammals are rich in the mineral sulfur. The skin, hair, ligaments, tendons, cartilage and the hooves of horses are comprised of connective tissue. Collagen is the protein of connective tissue and is the most abundant protein in the mammalian body.
Sulfur, an important component of collagen, is required for both joint health and, in horses, healthy hooves. One dietary source of sulfur is methionine, an essential amino acid that the body can convert to another “sulfur containing” amino acid called cysteine. Once converted, cysteine furnishes the sulfur “welds,” or crosslinks, that are necessary for healthy collagen and thus strong connective tissue infrastructure.
The lack of sulfur or methionine in a horse’s diet is known to lead to structural weakness in the ligaments, tendons, bones, joints, and hooves. However, too much sulfur in a horse’s diet can lead to over supplementation and weaken joint strength and hoof quality as well.
How does Over Supplementation Occur?
Many hoof supplements contain sulfur in the form of the amino acid methionine. The added methionine balances the relative deficiency of methionine in the typical equine pasture and hay diet. Most equine joint supplements contain MSM, or methylsulfonylmethane, which contains around 34% sulfur.
Sulfur over supplementation can result from feeding a hoof supplement with methionine along with a joint supplement containing MSM. The excess sulfur in the diet has been shown to block proper absorption of copper. Copper, along with vitamin C, is necessary for the formation of collagen and the building of healthy connective tissue for strong hooves and joints.
How can Over Supplementation be Avoided?
It is generally not a good idea to give more than one vitamin/mineral supplement to a horse. Avoiding supplements with duplicate nutrients is key to reducing the risks of over supplementation. Giving a single balanced supplement backed by research and years of proven effectiveness is recommended and can lead to a healthier and happier horse.
Farrier’s Formula® Double Strength Plus Joint is formulated to provide nutrients to help build strong connective tissue, improve hoof and coat quality, and give support for the joints without creating the over-supplementation and added expense that occurs when feeding a hoof supplement and joint supplement separately.
For more information on Life Data Labs and their products go to www.lifedatalabs.com
Published July 2018 Issue
The Northwest Horse Source is an independently owned and operated print and online magazine for horse owners and enthusiasts of all breeds and disciplines in the Pacific Northwest. Our contemporary editorial columns are predominantly written by experts in the region, covering the care, training, keeping and enjoyment of horses, with an eye to the specific concerns in our region.