Caring for Insulin Resistant Horses

Horses become part of the family over time, and with proper care can live a full, productive, happy life. Therefore, it is important that we take steps towards helping our horses prevent unnecessary health problems.

Equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) is a recognized disorder of horses that is characterized by general obesity, insulin resistance with concurrent hyperinsulinemia, and varying degrees of acute or chronic laminitis.

Most horses with EMS are middle-to-older-age horses that have traditionally been “easy keepers” and have developed the signs associated with EMS over a period of time.
The syndrome has a long list of complex reasons your horse could have this, but can be distilled into one main symptom: chronic obesity and excess calorie intake, which leads to a down regulation of insulin receptors in the body resulting in insulin resistance. A major point to understand is that there is a large disconnect between the calories consumed and the calories used.

Management of horses with EMS focuses on restricting the feed intake of the horses. Horses should be fed low-starch, high-fiber-type feeds. Feeds with molasses or sugary additives should be avoided as should extra calories in the form of treats or high-starch fruits such as apples. If the horse is sound enough, the activity level should be increased to help pull off some weight and help stimulate metabolism.

Consult with your local Stockdale’s feed and animal health specialist to help set up an effective feeding plan for your horses to help in the prevention of EMS.