With the World Championships right around the corner in August, the United States’ elite para dressage riders gathered recently for the Adequan® U.S. Para Dressage Symposium in Mill Spring, N.C. The symposium followed the Perrigo Tryon Summer Dressage CPEDI3* and was just one of many events that American Regent Animal Health, maker of Adequan® i.m. (polysulfated glycosaminoglycan), sponsors in support of equestrian and equine athletes. We took the opportunity to talk to two American Regent Animal Health representatives, Senior Director of Sales and Marketing Andrew Ferrigno and Technical Services Veterinarian Dr. Avi Blake, about how the company is helping to provide state-of-the-art care to the elite equine athletes in para dressage.
American Regent Animal Health has had a long, significant history of supporting equestrian sport. How long has the company been sponsoring equestrian events?
Andrew Ferrigno: American Regent Animal Health has more than a 30-year legacy with Adequan® i.m., and with that we have a long history of supporting horses and riders. We began sponsoring USEF in 2005 and later became the title sponsor of the Adequan®/USEF Para Dressage National Championships and the U.S. Para Dressage Team. We’re very proud of the role we play in helping para dressage.
We help them continue to raise the bar in competitions. We also know that by bringing attention to elite competitors, we help enable and inspire everyday riders to enjoy their horses, whether they’re riding in competitions or simply in the pasture or on the trail.
You've been a particularly strong supporter of para dressage. What was it that attracted you to that sport, in particular?
Ferrigno: For us, that's been a particular interest because the horses and riders in that area are especially representative of the dedication that you find in an elite athlete.
Adequan® i.m. was created to treat and manage degenerative joint disease in horses, and we think the sport of dressage really embodies that spirit of overcoming challenges.
Dr. Avi Blake: As an equine veterinarian, I know first-hand that the unique bond between horse and rider is really key to success in any equestrian event. That's especially true for para dressage. These elite para dressage horses not only need to be classically trained, obviously, but also need advanced training to accommodate the different combinations of unique communication signals their riders use. I certainly respect and admire the beauty of equestrian sport and what it takes to protect and extend the horse's working life, not only for the betterment of the equine athletes and the riders, but for the industry as well. American Regent Animal Health and Adequan® i.m. are proud to help contribute to that long-term success.
This year, American Regent Animal Health and Adequan® i.m. sponsored the USEF Para Dressage Symposium. What appealed to the company about that particular event?
Ferrigno: As an organization, we historically have supported and continue to support not only riders competing on the world stage, which is very important, but also we really work to help build the foundation for talented equestrians to continue to grow in their riding careers. So we'd like to help create a platform that can assist up-and-coming riders, as well as those who are established on the world stage.
The symposium that we're talking about provides athletes with that specialized training in multiple areas, from mounted and unmounted sessions to team building to mental-health training. We feel that supporting these activities provides riders with a tremendous opportunity to help them gain the training and experience they would need to compete and win at the highest levels.
Dr. Blake: Any time we can showcase the combination of horse and rider and what it takes to not only perform at any level, but to extend that to elite level, is a benefit to the industry and to the horse riding community, which we always want to grow. It’s an important event from the standpoint of providing a venue and recognition for this particular type of equestrian event and for the athletes and the horses themselves.
So how does Adequan® i.m. help support those elite equine athletes? What is polysulfated glycosaminoglycan and how can it support cartilage?
Ferrigno: Adequan® i.m. is the only FDA-approved equine polysulfated glycosaminoglycan, and it's important to note that after 30 years there is still no generic version or equivalent of Adequan® i.m. It's a unique drug for equine degenerative joint disease because it both manages disease symptoms and treats the disease process itself. We think helping to reduce inflammation and slow or delay the degenerative changes that lead to end-stage arthritis and joint dysfunction are critical to helping keep horses comfortable and keeping them in the game so they can continue to train and compete.
Dr. Blake: Following intramuscular injection, Adequan® i.m. reaches joints in just two hours through the bloodstream, and it maintains therapeutic concentrations in the joint for about four days after injection.
From our research, we know that Adequan® i.m. not only enters the joint space but also the joint cartilage. That joint cartilage is really critical to joint function. This specialized joint cartilage is damaged when there's ongoing trauma and inflammation, which we often see in horses with repetitive use or even those with less than perfect conformation or poor hoof balance. Once the rate of inflammation and damage exceeds the ability of the joint tissues to repair themselves, then we have a cycle of degenerative joint disease that progresses. Within the joint, Adequan® i.m. can help to reduce joint inflammation and increases the production of healthy joint fluid, inhibiting cartilage degeneration while stimulating normal cartilage repair processes.
So, when a dose of Adequan® i.m. is administered as per the label—every four days for a course of seven doses, over about 28 days— it is maintained in the joints for the entire treatment period. That's what allows the naturally slow process of cartilage repair to have a chance to catch up with the ongoing damage that occurs in horses with degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis.
What else, in addition to Adequan® i.m., can horse owners and managers do to help support their horses’ joint health?
Dr. Blake: I love to talk about that because I do think that a multimodal approach to management is always best. Whenever you use multiple therapies or strategies, you reduce the burden on any individual one.
So clearly prevention of injury or progression of joint disease is always preferable to playing catch up when it comes to managing soundness. Adhering to some basic training practices can really go a long way: providing appropriate warm-up and cool-down time and avoiding pushing it when the horse is fatigued. Not a lot of people think about it, but fatigue can really affect not only strength but also balance in horses and it increases the risk for joint inflammation or other injuries.
Fortunately, dressage horses are usually trained on soft, even surfaces that provide some good cushioning, and that can play a significant role in reducing the risk for acute musculoskeletal injury. It's also important, in my opinion, to partner with a veterinarian and a farrier to implement individualized trimming and shoeing practices that best support that horse’s hooves and weight-bearing without, of course, negatively impacting performance.
Some other non-pharmaceutical interventions for equine degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis include various regenerative therapies, alternative therapies such as message and acupuncture, and in some cases, veterinarians may suggest a surgical option.
Oral joint supplements certainly are widely used and have a potential to produce some benefits over time. However, the ingredients, dosing recommendations, and formulations really vary widely between oral supplement products. Supplements are not regulated by the FDA, like a drug is, and they're not intended to treat joint disease, but rather to support normal joint health and function. Because of that, there's often little or no scientific evidence available for their effectiveness as a treatment, per se. There are a lot of modalities that can be combined to keep horses sound.
Para dressage is a sport with so many wonderful qualities. There’s the partnership of the horse and rider, the athleticism of both, and the fitness and skill that’s required.
What attracts you personally or inspires you the most about the sport of para dressage?
Ferrigno: These are amazing animals and athletes, and it is exciting to watch them compete and to see the dedication that they have in the sport. It’s incredibly impressive and any little thing that we can do to help keep that meaningful relationship going, that’s what gets me up in the morning. That is really energizing, for me personally and for us as an organization.
Dr. Blake: You know, I was that little girl who was bitten by the horse bug and there was just no going back. So I'm truly inspired by most equestrian activities ranging from the pony club level to the highest level of international equestrian competition.
I do think that, as Andy mentioned, the amazing partnership that people have with horses is really unparalleled.
As a former rider, I know the freedom and the power that partnering with an equine athlete provides—and the trust that we place in them. And as a veterinarian, I'm definitely aware of the strength, that determination, the willingness that these horses exhibit, as well as the challenges associated with maintaining their health and soundness.
Dressage is just a delicate, beautiful sport to watch. That subtle communication that has to exist to successfully compete in elite para dressage, along with the sheer athleticism required—I think it's amazing and a work of art. I would encourage people to try to view it in person, if at all possible.
INDICATIONS Adequan® i.m. (polysulfated glycosaminoglycan) is recommended for the intramuscular treatment of non-infectious degenerative and/or traumatic joint dysfunction and associated lameness of the carpal and hock joints in horses.
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION There are no known contraindications to the use of intramuscular polysulfated glycosaminoglycan. Studies have not been conducted to establish safety in breeding horses. WARNING: Do not use in horses intended for human consumption. Not for use in humans. Keep this and all medications out of the reach of children. CAUTION: Federal law restricts this drug to use by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian. For full prescribing information, click here.
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