August 26, 2023 2 min read

Obesity and chronic laminitis are linked. These horses are labelled with terms such as Pre-Cushing's, Cushingoid, Syndrome-X, Hypothyroid, and Metabolic Syndrome. These descriptors, however, are only partially accurate because many horses with chronic laminitis caused by obesity don't show significant improvement with typical treatments for Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID)/Cushing's Disease, like pergolide. Thyroid drug supplementation also has limited effects. That's because these horses didn't have true PPID or hypothyroidism.

Recent research has shed more light on this condition, leading to the adoption of Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS) to define this unique metabolic profile. 

A defining trait of EMS is hyperinsulinemia, often paired with insulin resistance. Such horses don't handle carbohydrates well, and this insulin elevation can be tracked to aid in diagnosis and monitoring.

Clarifying EMS: It's Not a Disease 

It's crucial to note that EMS isn't a disease per se. Think of it more like an allergy in humans. Just as someone might be allergic to peanuts or strawberries without being "diseased," a horse with hyperinsulinemia has a metabolic intolerance to specific diets and management methods. This isn't something that can be "cured" but instead managed by understanding and avoiding triggers.

Dietary Management for EMS Horses 

The best approach for horses exclusively with EMS (or those with both PPID and IR) is a mineral-balanced diet low in carbs and fats. 

Avoid giving them grain products and letting them graze freely on pastures until all EMS symptoms have resolved. Choose tested hay or forages below 10% in Ethanol Soluble Carbohydrates (ESC) + Starch, or hay that's been soaked to remove soluble sugars is typically safe for most horses.

Supplements like Missy's Bucket can be highly beneficial in this dietary context. As a vitamin and mineral supplement designed for horses on a restricted diet, Missy's Bucket helps fill nutritional gaps. It supports overall health, making it an excellent choice for EMS management.

However, be careful not to reduce a horse's feed intake below 1.5% of its body weight to decrease its weight. This can aggravate Insulin Resistance and lead to Hyperlipemia, a condition where triglyceride and cholesterol are in the blood, potentially endangering the horse's life, especially in ponies. 

Simply put, it's essential not to starve the horse. Extreme calorie restriction can induce Insulin Resistance.

Recognising EMS and Insulin Resistance 

Look for signs such as: 

  • Distinctive fat deposits, like a pronounced neck crest or stubborn fatty patches, which remain even after weight loss. 
  • A fatty sheath or udder. 
  • A history of laminitis, often triggered by grass. 
  • Swelling in the recesses above the eyes. 
  • In more severe cases, symptoms might also include excessive thirst and urination, decreased body mass, muscle depletion, and diminished energy. 
  • Insulin levels that are higher than average yet have regular blood glucose. Glucose levels might also elevate in advanced instances or when the diet isn't suitable.

Also in Laminitis

Laminitis Management with Missy's Bucket
Laminitis Management with Missy's Bucket

March 21, 2024 1 min read

Insulin resistance or equine Metabolic syndrome, is the most common cause of laminitis in horses and minerals play an important role, a mineral balance diet is crucial, in promoting healthy insulin levels and optimal recovery from laminitis.
Read More
Understanding Body Conditioning Score: Your Horse’s Health Card
Understanding Body Conditioning Score: Your Horse’s Health Card

September 22, 2023 1 min read

Discover the importance of using the Henneke Body Conditioning Score for assessing your horse's health. Learn how to calculate it and how it can help prevent seasonal health issues like laminitis.
Read More
Outlining Hoof Care for the Laminitic Horse
Outlining Hoof Care for the Laminitic Horse

August 25, 2023 2 min read

This article provides a comprehensive guide to caring for a laminitic horse, focusing on proper hoof care and alignment, pain management, and offering a tailored approach for optimal hoof health and recovery.
Read More