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Talk to me of Equine Metabolic Syndrome

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  • Talk to me of Equine Metabolic Syndrome

    My distance driving horse is experiencing a lot of stress as we begin our conditioning program this summer. He was off work for almost 5 months. He is literally an airfern.

    As work has increased, he should be dropping weight and is not. This of course is leading to cooling out issues. Recently at a small driving show, we warmed up about 3 miles and had to stop, drop the carriage and had to cool him out. It took almost 20 minutes to get him to stop blowing. He sometimes comes home from a workout and lays down in the pasture.
    This is not usual. We have been working since July and were up to about 25 to 30 miles a week. At a compeition 3 weeks ago, I pulled him at the vet check at 10 miles because he did not pulse down to 64 until the 10 minute check. That is so unlike him, he usually pulses down to low 50s.

    Vet has said it sound like (without seeing the horse) something called Equine Metabolic syndrome. She will be coming out in Oct to pull blood.

    I have searched it out and researched some. It talks about heavy horses, perhaps insulin resistance, no tests for it. Usually tests for other things like cushing or pre-cushing are negative and this is the other choice.

    What I read was is that short of drylotting him, exercising the crap out of him daily there is not much to do for this.

    I have had the feeling for a while that he just wasn;t improving, but the last 2 weeks really drove hom just how out of it he is. He loves his job of hacking down forest trails at 8-10 mph for miles on end and will do it if it kills him.

    So any experience with this? Oh and doubt it is cushing, he does not have long hair. Typical short hair arab.

  • #2
    I have an Arab. He's diagnosed Cushings. He did not have long hair. I've got a 30 y/o QH - diagnosed Cushings - did not have long hair. Don't go by the haircoat.

    Sorry to say if he's metabolic grass pasture is the last thing he needs. If he is metabolic that will throw him over the edge. This is surely the time of year for it. If he's laying down more than usual he may be having a slight laminitis flareup. This is crash season for these types of horses.....ask me how I know.

    I might not be understanding your statement correctly but where did you read there is no test for insulin resistance? You'll pull blood, have it tested for insulin/glucose. Simple and fairly inexpensive.
    "Concern for animals is a matter of taking the side of the weak against the strong, something the best people have always done." Harriet Beecher Stowe 1811-1896

    Ponies are cool!


    • #3
      Here is a ton of info on metabolic issues and cushings. http://www.ecirhorse.com/

      I have a Morgan cross and he has IR. Once I got his diet corrected, he has been fine. Controlling the diet is very important for these horses.
      Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.


      • #4
        That definitely sounds like a possible diagnosis for your horse, although it could be other things, too, so I would definitely have your vet take a look before you get too carried away with one potential diagnosis. If your horse has metabolic syndrome, I promise it is not the end of the world. I have a horse who is profoundly affected by it (the most severe IR case I've seen, honestly), and a pony with Cushings, and both are doing fantastically well--they are in regular work and ready to compete if their slacker mommy would get them to shows.

        But, they need very fanatical management to be successful. If this does end up being his diagnosis, you will need to experiment with feed and pasture management--my guys are on a low-starch feed with a fat supplement, restricted grass intake (through muzzle use/"pony pasture assignment"), and regular exercise. I find that for both of them, regular exercise is the most important factor in controlling their metabolism--when they are not ridden consistently, their health definitely suffers. IR horses frequently develop Cushings as they age, and my guy has started to go that route--we started him on Pergolide in May, and that has made a big difference for him.


        • #5
          My gelding that passed away in March was diagnosed with Equine Metabolic Syndrome. EMS is just the new word for insulin resistant. There are tests for it but they are not always accurate. The best thing to do is to treat him as he has it.

          My gelding ended up getting laminitis and had to be euthanized. I wish I knew as much about EMS then as I do now. I maybe could have saved him.

          Talk to your vet and come up with a plan for your horse. There is a ton of information out there........some good and some bad and I have found it best to discuss everything with my vet as to the best action plan for my horse.

          Good luck........
          RIP Sucha Smooth Whiskey
          May 17,2004 - March 29, 2010
          RIP San Lena Peppy
          May 3, 1991 - March 11, 2010


          • #6
            Pookah - peroglide is banned substance

            Just a heads up that you can not show in USEF competitions while medicating your Cushings horse with peroglide, it is a forbidden substance. Given the nature of Cushings and challenges with the peroglide "veil", I would not take a horse on/off this medication for showing purposes - I simply wouldn't compete that horse any longer but just my two cents.
            Last edited by FEI1Day; Oct. 1, 2010, 12:34 PM. Reason: typo!


            • #7
              Equine metabolic syndrome also called:

              Peripheral Cushings,
              Insulin Resistance or

              Caused by inappropriate diet, lack of exercise and the development of obesity in susceptible animals.


              • #8
                I would lean more to Cushings than EMS.

                Last edited by Dalemma; Oct. 2, 2010, 07:56 PM.


                • Original Poster

                  Originally posted by Thomas_1 View Post
                  Equine metabolic syndrome also called:

                  Peripheral Cushings,
                  Insulin Resistance or

                  Caused by inappropriate diet, lack of exercise and the development of obesity in susceptible animals.
                  Well it cerainly is not due to lack of exercise--we are out 3 days a week a couple of days at 10 mile or more and one or 2 evenings a week for an hour to 90 min.

                  As far as diet, he is on grass and 2 flakes of grass hay. Only feed is 8 oz (by weight) of a ration balancer pellet--no molasses and the lowest carb out there I could find at my feed store. This was recommended also by the quine nutrionist of that feed company. (and yes I know they want to sell their product).

                  I know this may not be the diagnosis but I know my horse, he just ain;t right. As many miles as we have logged in the last 2 years getting ready for distance, we are a team. I know something is afoot but it is fairly nebulous.

                  Thanks for all the info folks, I am being inundated from other sites as well and folks sending me info privately. Way too much to plow through.

                  But it seems grass is an issue. I live on a hay field!!! May even have to get our grass or hay tested.


                  • #10
                    I hate to sound like a broken record but this sounds like soy sensitivity. The horses are fat and pregnant looking despite the work. Pull him off the RB (since they are mostly soybean meal for protein) and try soaked BP or alfalfa pellets and a multi-vitamin. It will only take a couple of weeks to notice a real change if it IS soy issues. My stallion even looked pregnant on a half pound of RB. I had 4 develop huge soy issues after being on an RB. The main thing was the horribly obese/pregnant look that didn't go away with work. When I pulled the soy from their diets they began losing large patches of what appeared to be water weight. They looked lumpy. After about 10 days they smoothed out and didn't have that bloated look. Really bizarre but that's what happened with my guys. I've got two that don't have those issues, but 4 did.


                    • #11
                      I know you do a lot of work with him but I can't remember what he is in terms of breed/type?

                      I've got several that are also in work and doing between 1 and 4 hours 5 days a week but will get fat unless I manage their grazing really strictly.

                      You said he's only getting 2 flakes of hay. Isn't he on forage turnout at all?


                      • Original Poster

                        Grass during the day (our grass is in its fall decline).
                        Drylotted at night with two flakes of hay for supper. No grain, nothing else.

                        I will check into this soy thing.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Cartfall View Post
                          Grass during the day (our grass is in its fall decline).
                          I'm in SW OH and while some fields are browning this is a dangerous time of year. Until a consistent freeze comes and stays the sugar levels are higher due to the stress of the fall decline. Try www.safergrass.org for more information.

                          You could try a grazing muzzle at least part of the day to cut down. Of course if you eliminate soy and limit grass at the same time and see results you won't truly know which was the source of his issue but if he's feeling better that's what matters.
                          "Concern for animals is a matter of taking the side of the weak against the strong, something the best people have always done." Harriet Beecher Stowe 1811-1896

                          Ponies are cool!


                          • #14
                            I have little knowledge of driving, but sounding like his workouts, he does seem to be doing distances. I think yo umay wish to check out information regarding feeding endurance horses. you say he is on straight grass, nothing else? (I hope I read that right.)

                            If your vet isn't sure yet on the equine metabolic syndrome, your horse might be experiencing a metabolic issue we run into in endurance sometimes. it's related to the horse calcium /phophorous ratio The blood tests you have planned in Oct will tell you for sure, of course regarding this

                            Grass hays generally tend to have a low ca/Phos ratio - ideally a horse should be getting 1.2:1 Ca/phos. When this becomes inverted (for example the CA ratio is less then 1, a lot of the symptoms you are seeing can be noted.

                            Easily tired, PR up, blowing, horse is weaker than should be, not conditioning well, etc etc. Essentially what happens, is the horse is removing calcium form their own system(bones) to compensate for the phosphorous count.

                            the easiest way that most people fix this is to add alfalfa to a horses diet, as alfalfa is quite high in calcium. I tend to feed grass hays to all my competing horses and use alfalfa as a supplement (crazy I know) but this is because endurance horses who have only alfalfa as their forage present another host of metabolic probelms. the main one being it's ecessive calcium been proven to cause whats generally known as thumps in endurance horses.

                            you may wish to read through Susan Garlingouses site a DVM who specializes in endurance style nutrtrition, she can explain all this way better then me
                            her link is http://www.shady-acres.com/susan/index.shtml
                            Originally posted by ExJumper
                            Sometimes I'm thrown off, sometimes I'm bucked off, sometimes I simply fall off, and sometimes I go down with the ship. All of these are valid ways to part company with your horse.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Cartfall View Post
                              Grass during the day (our grass is in its fall decline).
                              Drylotted at night with two flakes of hay for supper. No grain, nothing else.

                              I will check into this soy thing.
                              Well if he's just on grass and hay then soy isn't an issue. If he's on any sort of processed feed, he may be. This includes any supps too.