A recent study performed by Ron Riegel, DVM, on 30 racing Standardbreds confirms that the popular nutraceutical supplement MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) can have far-reaching effects on the ability of equine muscle tissue to rebound from exercise stress.

The data, unveiled at the second annual Nutraceutical Alliance conference in Guelph, Ontario, on March 23-24, was gathered, using 30 three- and four-year-old Standardbreds in full race training at an Ohio county fair track. To eliminate other variables in the study, Riegel persuaded trainers to discontinue the use of all injectable and topical medications three weeks prior to beginning the study. This was a tough sell, but necessary because his primary diagnostic technique in assessing each horse’s level of soundness and comfort was full-body thermography–a method which scans the horse’s body for differences in temperature. Thermography cannot diagnose specific problems–it cannot, for instance, differentiate between a hoof abscess and a fractured coffin bone–but it is a very sensitive method of identifying sites of inflammation (the greater the irritation, the hotter the tissue and the brighter the color on the thermograph).

Riegel separated the horses into three test groups. Group one received no treatment. Group two received 10 grams of MSM daily, and group three received 20 grams of MSM a day (both doses by oral syringe). The horses were examined regularly by thermography for about eight weeks. Riegel also drew blood samples that underwent CBC (complete blood count) and serum chemistry analysis, and tracked their training progress.

The results showed that all of the horses receiving MSM had dramatic improvement in three ways. Thermography showed less inflammation and soreness, particularly through the back and hind end. (The change was faster and more dramatic for the horses on the higher dose.) Additionally, their serum chemistry demonstrated significa