A Valued Partner
In the course of a competition season, the performance horse experiences multiple stressors, given the rigors of training, traveling, and competing; and these stressors can cause joint pain, intestinal discomfort, and respiratory issues. All who participate in equestrian sport have a deep and abiding bond with their hard-working, talented partners. Accomplished athletes, they give of themselves selflessly, and trust their caretakers to understand and address their needs. In an ongoing effort to give them the best guardianship possible, the rider is faced with making the right choices from the dizzying array of oral supplements and therapeutic treatments on the market.
The use of plasma products to promote healing and to block inflammation, often with measurable success, has been gaining in popularity over the last decade. These products include platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and autologous conditioned serum (ACS or IRAP). Both involve drawing blood from the horse, putting it through an enhancement process, and then injecting it into the targeted tissue via ultrasound guidance.
Entering the Arena
In 2014, an oral functional plasma protein delivered twice daily at feeding time, became available to the equine market for the first time. A new product, but not a new science, this bioactive protein supplement is less costly and easier to administer than either PRP or IRAP.
Stress in its various forms can cause a horse’s immune system to spring into action unnecessarily, recruiting inflammatory cells to local tissue sites to produce inflammation that can be felt throughout the body. These new products, while they don’t interfere with the horse’s natural immune response, aid in maintaining a normal immune system, and are able to reduce inflammation system-wide.
This new performance supplement is derived from bovine plasma, which is sourced from the meat processing industry. In the early 1980’s its creators, realizing that valuable blood was going to waste, developed a patented process for fractioning plasma, allowing specific proteins to be concentrated into serum. Serum is the fluid that results after plasma is separated from the blood, and certain proteins are separated from the plasma. The serum is spray-dried into a fine powder, preserving the bioactive proteins, which can then be combined with other ingredients to create therapeutic products for animals.
History of Plasma Products
Human plasma products were first developed during World War II to treat the wounded. Whole blood transfusion was unworkable due to the restrictions of blood matching, storage, and transportation. The work done to produce a usable product led to one of the earliest instances of blood fractionation.
Over the decades, this process continued to be refined, and the use of the products broadened into animals as well as humans, as the medical community found more and more applications.
First developed for use in the swine industry, researchers at Iowa State University verified that these bioactive proteins had a positive effect on animals experiencing stress. Swine producers have a serious problem with piglets becoming extremely stressed after weaning, causing weight loss and other health issues. The use of these products in just-weaned piglets has helped in a profound and repeatable way, a fact borne out by thirty years of studies. Stress certainly isn’t unique to piglets and soon these products carried over into other species, most recently horses.
Proven Stress Relief
We all know how it feels to have a bit of soreness in our legs, and how we compensate by shortening our stride. Dr. Josie Coverdale, of Texas A&M University, carried out a study to measure the effect of stress and the use of serum-based supplements on the horse. The data supported the conclusion that the supplements improve stride length and range of motion.
These new performance supplements bear the NASC (National Animal Supplement Council) Quality Seal. At a cost of about three dollars a day, they are usually effective within 14 days. Serum-based proteins have shown success in addressing issues of muscle soreness, joint issues, respiratory problems, as well as nagging digestive upsets that can disrupt performance.
No matter the shape of the saddle, anything that can make a horse more comfortable will help it to thrive, and that’s true across the spectrum, from piglets navigating the weaning process, to performance horses involved in the intensity of high-level competition, where the horse’s freedom from pain has a direct effect on what can be accomplished in the arena.
Part one of a 6-part weekly series, this new serum-based product, available on the market as LIFELINE®, will be discussed in more depth in subsequent installments. Part two will provide an in-depth comparison of the plasma products currently rising in popularity.