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View Full Version : Cresty Neck—what is it really?



Oldenburg Mom
Apr. 20, 2010, 07:34 PM
I'm a bit perplexed.

What actually CAUSES a cresty neck? Is it just obesity? Or too much sugary grass/hay?

Last year both my girls had a somewhat cresty neck at the end of the summer. Over the winter they've both lost them ... as their weight declined.

Any info or comments would be greatly appreciated!

Thomas_1
Apr. 20, 2010, 07:38 PM
It's fat deposits.

EqTrainer
Apr. 20, 2010, 07:38 PM
Adipose fat and edema.

Some horses only get them when they are fat. I think stallions get them in response to hormones but not 100% on that. Some horses have metabolic issues and get/have them even when they are skinny.

ptownevt
Apr. 20, 2010, 07:44 PM
It seems to be a place where horses deposit fat, especially if they have an issue with the metabolism of simple carbohydrates. Like people with those issues get fat stomachs, i.e., the apple body type. Sometimes Cushings horses will have crests that look out of proportion for the rest of their body condition. That would be the abnormal fat deposits these horses can get. Overall I think that some people are over the top about cresty necks. Some breeds, i.e., the drafts, stallions, etc., are built that way. That said, it does sound as though your girls got a bit too plump. It may be a sign that you need to watch their diet/weight a bit more closely. It does not mean, as I've heard some insist, that a horse is laminitic.

matryoshka
Apr. 20, 2010, 07:53 PM
We had an interesting discussion on another forum when a person noticed the crest and "fat pads" went away within days. We were thinking they must have been edema. This also happened on my little Arabian mare after a high-mileage weekend. She didn't look much thinner, but the bit of crest and "fat pads" that had started went away in a few days.

Anybody know for sure whether it is really fat or edema?

Oldenburg Mom
Apr. 20, 2010, 07:57 PM
That said, it does sound as though your girls got a bit too plump. It may be a sign that you need to watch their diet/weight a bit more closely. It does not mean, as I've heard some insist, that a horse is laminitic.

Thanks everyone. I though it was fat ... I guess now I know for sure.

But why does it get hard ... is that a metabolic issue? And what the heck COULD laminitis have to do with it? What's the relationship?

I found my local tack store (Saddlery Liquidators ... hooray) has the hay nets with little holes for $10. I tried one over the weekend, and yup, I got the evil eye from one of my chubbies. So that will help during the summer when they are in their stalls.

But holy smokes ... I guess the other thing is keep the pasture mowed. *sigh* More work ....


Anybody know for sure whether it is really fat or edema?

Yeah, and how do you tell the difference. Oh, and what do you do about each? Or maybe nothing ...

Adipose fat
What's the difference between adipose fat ... and regular fat. Off to google...

matryoshka
Apr. 20, 2010, 08:20 PM
Well, if it is edema, then that could explain why it gets harder and softer.

The discussion on the other forum was about cortisol, the stress hormone, and how it causes fat in certain areas of the body. But I think cortisol can cause edema, too. That particular discussion talked about pain in the feet raising cortisol levels. According to one article, high sugar in the blood increases cortisol levels, which could explain the link between a cresty neck and laminitis. (This assumes that high cortisol from chronic stress creates a crest in some horses with metabolic problems. It's conjecture.)

I'm not a medical professional and probably didn't quite get the conversation right. I just know that when a cresty neck gets firm, laminitis is a definite danger.

JB
Apr. 20, 2010, 09:11 PM
Well, if it is edema, then that could explain why it gets harder and softer.

And why it can appear and disappear in literally hours :yes:

matryoshka
Apr. 20, 2010, 09:12 PM
There seems to be a correlation between cresty necks and a tendency toward laminitis, but the question is why.

EqTrainer
Apr. 20, 2010, 09:14 PM
I have a client whose pony appears to have lost at least 50 lbs of edema in a week or so, just after being taken off grass.

JB
Apr. 20, 2010, 09:29 PM
Yep - used to trim a horse who literally lost 100lb in a week of being muzzled!

deltawave
Apr. 20, 2010, 09:29 PM
It's probably a form of lipodystrophy, which causes the "buffalo hump" seen in humans with Cushing's disease or HIV patients treated with certain medications that can cause it. It's not "just fat", in other words. Something about this pattern indicates a very abnormal metabolism. Not all fat horses get super cresty, and not all cresty horses are fat. Much is not clear, however, on the whys and wherefores.

matryoshka
Apr. 20, 2010, 09:43 PM
Very interesting. Thanks--I'd wondered why some horses get cresty and some not, even though both types can have metabolic problems.

Androcles
Apr. 20, 2010, 10:56 PM
It's probably a form of lipodystrophy, which causes the "buffalo hump" seen in humans with Cushing's disease or HIV patients treated with certain medications that can cause it. It's not "just fat", in other words. Something about this pattern indicates a very abnormal metabolism. Not all fat horses get super cresty, and not all cresty horses are fat. Much is not clear, however, on the whys and wherefores.

So what is it, besides 'just fat'?

Leather
Apr. 20, 2010, 11:21 PM
There seems to be a correlation between cresty necks and a tendency toward laminitis, but the question is why.


Very interesting. Thanks--I'd wondered why some horses get cresty and some not, even though both types can have metabolic problems.

The $64,000 question(s) of EMS. :)

The U of MN has a study underway to help try to figure this out that horse owners can participate in:

http://www.extension.umn.edu/horse/components/ems.htm

Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS) is characterized by three main features: obesity or regional adiposity (accumulation of fat in certain areas, particularly the neck), insulin resistance (IR) a “pre-diabetic” like state, and laminitis in horses and ponies.

EMS likely begins with a genetic pre-disposition. Certain breeds or individual horses are predisposed and often referred to as “easy keepers” by their owners. These horses are very efficient at utilizing calories and often require a lower plane of nutrition to maintain body weight than other horses, which is why EMS is a metabolic disorder. Laminitis (or “founder”) is a devastating feature of EMS. Laminitis is a painful and debilitating disease of the digital laminae (the tissue inter-connection between the coffin bone and hoof wall). Often by the time clinical signs are recognized, crippling body changes such as sinking and rotation of the coffin bone have occurred. Although there are several inciting causes of laminitis, the most common form of the disease is “grass founder” which occurs in horses and ponies kept on pasture. An interesting feature of the disease is that in any given population of horses or ponies, certain individuals are susceptible to laminitis while others of the same breed, sex, and age managed in the same circumstances do not develop the disease.

Environmental factors play an important role, with cases typically occurring during periods of rapid pasture growth. However the differences in susceptibility among horses managed in the same conditions may be a result of an underlying genetic predisposition. It is our goal to determine the genetic role in this devastating disease which affects a large number of horses. However, in order to achieve this goal, we need the help of horse owners to accumulate data on as many horses with EMS as possible. By assisting in our project, you will provide us with information essential to further understanding EMS and ultimately determining ways to better manage EMS. Click on the “Get Involved in Research” link to learn more about our project and how you can become involved.

deltawave
Apr. 21, 2010, 07:51 AM
Sorry to be unclear, and trust Androcles to call me out on it. :lol: The substance found in the crest is certainly "just" fat if you like, (with some tissue swelling to go along with it) but why it's there and how it's different from "plain old obesity" is poorly understood.

I should have said "it's not just obesity".

twohotponies
Apr. 21, 2010, 10:11 AM
I think my gelding was born with a cresty neck. :) It never matches the rest of his body.

Melyni
Apr. 21, 2010, 01:41 PM
We (I) have been investigating this phenomenon for about 6 years now. And there still is no real answer.

The cresty neck of the IR/EMS horse is not edema nor is it just fat.

When we did biopsies on the neck crests the tissue was highly vascularised and had very high levels of collagen, plus an unusual honeycomb structure that you don't see in normal adipose tissue. There was no edema (edema being defined as plasma accumulation in extra cellular tissue)

On palpation the texture is also different from normal fat. The tissue is much harder and firmer. Often you cannot bend it or move it yourself, some of these horses cannot turn their heads and look back the tissue is so ridgid.

We still don't know why this occurs, you can't produce it artificially. E.G. we can't get such a neck in a normal horse by giving insulin or allowing the horse to gain weight even a LOT of weight.

But in some horses, weight gain along with high sugar starch causes the neck to appear.
Giving extra magnesium reduces it, giving extra chromium reduces it, even if you don't change the diet.
Changing the diet away from sugar/starch also reduces it.
Combining the two minerals with a low starch diet reduces it better and faster.

BUT it is still not fully understood. Theories abound.

However it is a useful visual check for horse owners. If you see a crest forming then increase magnesium/chromium and reduce sugar/starch, if it gets hard to the touch then get the horse off the grass fast and drench with Epsom salts and get them onto a low glycemic diet.

It's my experience that you get a hardening of the crest about 48 hrs before then get full blown laminitis.

So if you have cresty horses, do a palpation check of the crest each am and pm, as in touch it and see if you can bend it or move it, if you can't, check for digital pulse.
If you have both call the vet.
If you just have the hard crest, no grass, soaked hay only for 24 hrs and dose with mag/chromium.
Then when the crest softens again you can return the horse to the pasture/hay diet if you increase the Mg/Cr intake and keep a very watchful eye on them.

Oh and exercise helps no end as well. If they are sound enough, work them hard enough to get them out of breath and work up a good sweat.
Exercise is another way to help keep the laminitis at bay.

Good Luck
Yours
MW

Androcles
Apr. 21, 2010, 01:54 PM
When we did biopsies on the neck crests the tissue was highly vascularised and had very high levels of collagen, plus an unusual honeycomb structure that you don't see in normal adipose tissue. There was no edema (edema being defined as plasma accumulation in extra cellular tissue)
We still don't know why this occurs, you can't produce it artificially. E.G. we can't get such a neck in a normal horse by giving insulin or allowing the horse to gain weight even a LOT of weight.



You (they?) should try giving cortisol and see what happens.

Rbow
Apr. 21, 2010, 02:01 PM
We (I) have been investigating this phenomenon for about 6 years now. And there still is no real answer.

The cresty neck of the IR/EMS horse is not edema nor is it just fat.

When we did biopsies on the neck crests the tissue was highly vascularised and had very high levels of collagen, plus an unusual honeycomb structure that you don't see in normal adipose tissue. Good Luck
Yours
MW

How many cresty necks did you look at?

Were there any theories on the unusual honeycomb structure?

Did you ever find any evidence neck threadworms in a cresty neck?

Melyni
Apr. 21, 2010, 02:44 PM
How many cresty necks did you look at?
We biopsied 3, but I have palpated about 200.


Were there any theories on the unusual honeycomb structure?

several.


Did you ever find any evidence neck threadworms in a cresty neck?
Nope none,

MW

Melyni
Apr. 21, 2010, 02:47 PM
You (they?) should try giving cortisol and see what happens.

The horse has a different reaction to corticosteroids from humans. Cortisol does not have the same effect on them. When given exogenous steroids horses get 'happy' and then get laminitis they don't get cresty necks.

It's not the same as the adiposity seen in humans due to cortisol.
MW

Rbow
Apr. 21, 2010, 03:08 PM
We biopsied 3, but I have palpated about 200.



several.


Nope none,

MW

Are these theories captured in any published research I could look at?

In other words, I'd like to hear more about them but don't expect you to take the time to explain it here.

I'm interested in the mechanism for this as well as natural stallion crestiness.

Thanks.

Oldenburg Mom
Apr. 21, 2010, 03:21 PM
Well, I'm not going to interrupt this conversation! :lol: I think it's fascinating and I appreciate everyone's comments. Mel, looks like you're in the driver's seat here.

I've got mine on Chrome... so we'll see how the summer develops.

Melyni
Apr. 21, 2010, 03:50 PM
Are these theories captured in any published research I could look at?

In other words, I'd like to hear more about them but don't expect you to take the time to explain it here.

I'm interested in the mechanism for this as well as natural stallion crestiness.

Thanks.

There was a paper presented at the 2008 ESS meeting on crestyness and propensity to laminitis/founder, by Becky Treiber who was a grad student at Virginia Tech, and I believe she went on and did a few more papers on neck crest thickness etc, morphology and blood parameters etc. Try the ESS (Equine Science Society) for those.

The study on getting the arab geldings obese is yet to be published. Dr Ray Geor will probably be if not the main author, certainly one of them.

Dr Preston Burr did the biopsies/histology and he never did publish.

I did the study on feeding Mg and Cr and getting a reduction in neck crestyness with and without alteration of the diet. It is only a preliminary study and did not have any kind of controls and hence is not publishable.
I need to repeat it in a controlled scientific setting and I have yet to find one where I can do that.

This cresty neck phenomenon is not the same as the thickening of the neck as a secondary sexual charateristic in stallions. By which I mean that stallions get a thick neck that has nothing to do with EMS, they can also get a thickened neck due to EMS on top of the normal crest.

But a thick neck in a stallion is not necessarily due to EMS.

There are bits a pieces of evidence around but none in any easy to obtain places.

So it's more a matter of putting together disparate bits and pieces and trying to make them add up to 5!

One day I will get someone with a research herd and a lab do all this work in one place.
Yours
MW

Rbow
Apr. 21, 2010, 04:07 PM
Thank you very much for the information.

I'll see what I can find. Interesting subject.

Best of luck with your research!

meaty ogre
Nov. 9, 2010, 10:41 AM
I recently bought a pony with a firm, cresty neck. The prior owners had her on a very restrictive diet and used a grazing muzzle until her paddock became a total dry lot. She was getting about 2 cups of TC lite and 2-3 flakes of a stemmy grass hay (no analysis) daily. Her neck remained firm and cresty but she had a total lack of muscle tone...not "thin" but angular in her hips and just no muscle.

When I got her home I switched her over to a low-starch ration balancer, and put her on a Mg/chromium supplement, and bagged forage with a low NSC. I also have had her on a vitamin/mineral mix with a probiotic included but I think I may be able to discontinue that because the RB should be filling that void. I just felt like she needed it coming from the scarce diet she was on (which was much better than overfeeding her I'm sure).

Her neck does not seem to have decreased in size, but is much softer (squishy rather than firm, and easily flops from side to side now). I wish I had thought to take measurements when I got her but I didn't.

For those with lots of cresty neck experience, how long does it take to see the shrinkage? I take it the dramatic softening shows I'm on the right track, but I'd really like to see some visible size reduction. How long would you wait before increasing the Mg supplement or doing something else? What else would you do?

She has never had any pulses/signs of laminits. I think she is starting to fill in some muscle, but it is hard to detect when looking at her on a daily basis. She needs more exercise than she is getting and I'm trying to develop a plan of attack for that as well.

aucowwy
Nov. 9, 2010, 02:06 PM
Fat, they actually have studies relating cresty necks with laminitis.

RedMare01
Nov. 9, 2010, 02:24 PM
I recently bought a pony with a firm, cresty neck. The prior owners had her on a very restrictive diet and used a grazing muzzle until her paddock became a total dry lot. She was getting about 2 cups of TC lite and 2-3 flakes of a stemmy grass hay (no analysis) daily. Her neck remained firm and cresty but she had a total lack of muscle tone...not "thin" but angular in her hips and just no muscle.

When I got her home I switched her over to a low-starch ration balancer, and put her on a Mg/chromium supplement, and bagged forage with a low NSC. I also have had her on a vitamin/mineral mix with a probiotic included but I think I may be able to discontinue that because the RB should be filling that void. I just felt like she needed it coming from the scarce diet she was on (which was much better than overfeeding her I'm sure).

Her neck does not seem to have decreased in size, but is much softer (squishy rather than firm, and easily flops from side to side now). I wish I had thought to take measurements when I got her but I didn't.

For those with lots of cresty neck experience, how long does it take to see the shrinkage? I take it the dramatic softening shows I'm on the right track, but I'd really like to see some visible size reduction. How long would you wait before increasing the Mg supplement or doing something else? What else would you do?

She has never had any pulses/signs of laminits. I think she is starting to fill in some muscle, but it is hard to detect when looking at her on a daily basis. She needs more exercise than she is getting and I'm trying to develop a plan of attack for that as well.

On my mare, I noticed a pretty dramatic shrinking of the neck within a month of starting her on 1/2 dose of Smart IR. I never measured either, but it was definitely noticeable within the month. FWIW, she is probably borderline IR...not close to full blown, no laminitis ever, just started to exhibit some of the physical characteristics a couple of years ago. She's been excellent on low NSC RB, Smart IR, and dry lot turnout. She gets regular hay, not soaked.

Caitlin

Auventera Two
Nov. 9, 2010, 02:28 PM
A cresty neck is common with certain breeds, regardless if they are overweight and/or insulin resistant or not - Morgans, Fjords and Spanish breeds come to mind. I've seen weanling Morgans with cresty necks. It just seems to be a breed trait. Also more common in stallions regardless of health or weight. My Paso Fino has a cresty neck and he's not fat, or insulin resistant by any means. He was a stallion until 8 as well so that has something to do with it I'm sure.

JB
Nov. 9, 2010, 02:35 PM
Yes, there is a difference between the crestiness of a breed, of a stallion, and even between that of an IR horse and a horse who is just fat.

The IR crest FEELS different. It is not a good feel.

Auventera Two
Nov. 9, 2010, 02:39 PM
On my mare, I noticed a pretty dramatic shrinking of the neck within a month of starting her on 1/2 dose of Smart IR. I never measured either, but it was definitely noticeable within the month. FWIW, she is probably borderline IR...not close to full blown, no laminitis ever, just started to exhibit some of the physical characteristics a couple of years ago. She's been excellent on low NSC RB, Smart IR, and dry lot turnout. She gets regular hay, not soaked.

Caitlin

I also noticed MASSIVE improvement after putting my fatties on SmartControl IR.........

However, Dr. Nicholas Frank is a vet who tested SmartControl IR on donated insulin resistant, foundered horses, and he says that absolutely NO improvement at all was noted in even ONE of the horse's insulin/glucose levels, neck circumference measurements, soundness, or weight. The horses were maintained very strictly and the only supplement or treatment they were given was the SmartControl IR. He told me via email that based on the poor results of the study, he cannot conclude that SmartControl IR has any positive (or negative) affect on insulin resistant, foundered, overweight horses. :confused: I can't recall how many horses were in the study, but it was quite a few - not just a handful.

meaty ogre
Nov. 9, 2010, 03:08 PM
The IR crest FEELS different. It is not a good feel.

Aside from being firm vs. soft, is there any other difference you'd describe?

All very interesting thoughts. I went with the smartcontrol IR supp. due to price - did not know about the study AT posted. Before her supplements arrived I was just using milk of magnesia from the dollar store as my MgOx source. She has been on the smartcontrol IR under a week, but has been getting MgOx in some form for almost 2 weeks. I am not dealing with laminitis/founder, but still very interesting. If there is something that is better I'd like to know.

The pony in question does not have papers and I really have no idea what breed she might be. She's an adorable chestnut with flaxen mane and tail. :)

Vet is coming to do teeth in a little over a week, and I'll talk to him then about his thoughts. She did drink and pee a lot, which was alarming, but that seems to be stablizing. She had not had access to any type of salt at her prior location, so she devoured a himalayan salt block within her first 2 days here. She is not as interested in the non-majikal salt block I've given her now, and as a result her massive water consumption has tapered. It did scare me initially as I was definitely wondering about cushings, though she doesn't have the coat.

I really like to try to get all my equines to a point where they are as natural and low-maintenance as possible, but moreso my goal is longevity. This is the type of pony that can teach your kids and grandkids to ride safely and I want to keep her going into her 40s!

JB
Nov. 9, 2010, 04:24 PM
It just feels....wrong :lol: In some cases it can be literally rock hard, as opposed to just firm. Even in the "firm" stage, it can be pit-y, not squishy if that makes sense. Edema - not like a water balloon, not like a soft pillow, not like fat, maybe like firm tofu LOL

RedMare01
Nov. 9, 2010, 06:57 PM
I also noticed MASSIVE improvement after putting my fatties on SmartControl IR.........

However, Dr. Nicholas Frank is a vet who tested SmartControl IR on donated insulin resistant, foundered horses, and he says that absolutely NO improvement at all was noted in even ONE of the horse's insulin/glucose levels, neck circumference measurements, soundness, or weight. The horses were maintained very strictly and the only supplement or treatment they were given was the SmartControl IR. He told me via email that based on the poor results of the study, he cannot conclude that SmartControl IR has any positive (or negative) affect on insulin resistant, foundered, overweight horses. :confused: I can't recall how many horses were in the study, but it was quite a few - not just a handful.

That's interesting. I wish I had taken before and after pictures...I could definitely tell a difference with my mare, especially in the neck, after starting Smart IR.

Caitlin

fargo
Nov. 10, 2010, 08:27 AM
It just feels....wrong :lol: In some cases it can be literally rock hard, as opposed to just firm. Even in the "firm" stage, it can be pit-y, not squishy if that makes sense. Edema - not like a water balloon, not like a soft pillow, not like fat, maybe like firm tofu LOL
I agree! We have a gelderlander horse who has cushings (for at least 3,5 years now) and he has had a good neck on him allways as Gelders do. But when he was at his worst with the cushing his neck was really tense and hard. We started him on magnesium and it went away, as did the tense muscles and the fat disposition over his body went away too. We also started him on pergolide off course, but I strongly believe that the magnesium did the trick for his cresty neck.

meaty ogre
Nov. 10, 2010, 12:01 PM
Or CNS.
http://www.horsetalk.co.nz/news/2009/03/161.shtml

The article says:

"Having a cresty neck did not make a horse more likely to be hyperinsulinemic. But a pony with a cresty neck was 19 times more likely to be hyperinsulinemic than a pony with a moderate neck."


So, cresty neck in a horse is not cause for alarm, but it is in ponies?

http://www.lmffeeds.com/Newsletters/LMF%20Nutrition%20Update%2001.pdf
This article has an extremely simplified pictorial for the scores 0-5. Most are going to fall between 2-4, but there's a huge leap between 2 and 3, and then again between 3 and 4, so I wonder how helpful this chart really is.

JB
Nov. 10, 2010, 12:25 PM
Don't for a second think that a cresty neck, of the sort we're talking about, meanings nothing just because it's a horse rather than a pony. That article does not appear to be talking about "cresty" in the context we are. They are talking about a fat horse with a "cresty" neck. They aren't talking about the IR-cresty issue.

So yes, being that ponies are more predisposed to IR issues, being overweight does increase risks

I don't like that 1-5 scoring system - it leaves too much room between numbers.

meaty ogre
Nov. 10, 2010, 12:33 PM
I don't like that 1-5 scoring system - it leaves too much room between numbers.

Totally agree. And I like how the feed website recommends low starch for those equines with a CNS of 4 or 5. Jeez. Ya think?!

Yes, a water balloon, memory foam pillow, innerspring mattress, tofu, aged cheddar scoring system would actually be much more helpful! :)

Maude
Dec. 29, 2010, 06:02 PM
For those of you who have had success with treating crestiness and muscle soreness with magnesium: What product do you use and where do you get it? What dosage? is it safe? How much does it cost you? Thanks!!

Pookah
Dec. 29, 2010, 08:18 PM
I have two horses with metabolic issues--one does not seem to respond to anything except for management through grazing restriction/exercise (but fortunately does great with that). The other is my problem child, who is a big warmblood that is severely IR and finally tested mildly positive for Cushings this past year. He has had two bouts of laminitis, both immediately following joint injections that included steroids. We had him on SmartPak IR for years, and I really couldn't say if it made a difference or not--when we first realized that he had a problem, we immediately made drastic changes to his diet, which included adding the supplement--his crestiness improved, but I have no way of knowing what caused the improvement (and frankly was so terrified of laminitis that I did not want to risk stopping anything). Last year when he started another bout of laminitis, my vet recommended taking him off the SmartPak IR and starting him on Quiessence from Foxden Equine (Melyni of the posts above). Hopefully the link below will give a comparison of the two (this was officially the first time in my life that a vet has ever recommended a less expensive option :)).

http://www.smartpakequine.com/ProductComparisonResult.aspx?CATID=780

He's been on Quiessence since the summer, and in my opinion, his crestiness is better managed on it. But, it's really impossible to say as so many other factors affect his health, and there is no way to isolate the supplement--he could be getting slightly more work, etc. Unfortunately with these horses I have found that I have to experiment continuously to keep them at optimal health. But, I very much trust Melyni's products and recommendations-she has a combination of education, hard science and research, and day to day practical experience that I personally believe is unmatched anywhere else for these types of disorders.