The Problem With Easy Keepers, Part II

Is your horse battling a metabolic disorder? Jody Webb lends some insight into holistic treatment.

If you missed Part I, click here.


Flickr/Sean/Creative Commons License

Helping the EMS (Equine Metabolic Syndrome) Challenged Horse

By Jody Webb

It is no secret that metabolic disorders are on the rise in the horse world. Whether through the poor breeding management or through the overuse of chemicals in vaccines, wormers, feeds or a combination thereof the “tough as a mustang” type of horse has pretty much been left only to the… well, mustangs.

On the rise is PSSM (Polysaccaride Storage Myopathy), IR (Insulin Resistance), Cushings (tumor on the pituitary gland), HYPP (Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis) which have side effects such as the “easy keeper,”  the “hard keeper,” tying up, chronic colic, “cresty neck” and laminitis to name a few. With the exception of HYPP (which is its own complicated diet), all of these other syndromes benefit from the same basic type of diet. The PSSM horse also benefits from the same diet outline, though rations will vary greatly from horse to horse.

  • Reduced or zero grazing, especially on spring and fall grasses which can be high in sugars
  • Low sugar hays fed in slow graze hay bags which helps to balance insulin levels
  • Introduction of a balanced level of HEALTHY omega 3 fatty acids and amino acids which improves insulin balance and provides many vital nutrients
  • Removal or severely limited grain products that add to unnecessary calories
  • Removal of “complete” feeds that incorporate molasses as an ingredient
  • Removal of as many chemical additives as possible, i.e. as natural and organic a diet as possible for easily uploadable nutrients
  • Severely limited or zero use of vaccines, chemical dewormers, and other chemically based medications that can interfere with the body’s functions — functions that are already challenged for the EMS horse
  • Careful introduction of herbs as supplements to help balance the body and cause it to function more “normally”

The point of the diet is not to heavily restrict calories (as some suppose) but to use the right TYPE of calories. Sugars and starches are calories that are stored as body fat if not immediately used, which leads to problems with the metabolically challenged horse. As hay is already a starch, but nutritionally limited, it is then important to provide foods that are low in sugars and starches but provides a vast amount of nutrients as well. So what are options for those nutrients?

  • Herbs that aid in balancing sugar levels as well as providing vitamins and minerals promoting digestion, increasing circulation, boosting function of the thyroid and adrenals, and aiding in balancing hormones such as fenugreek, ginger, oregano, rosemary and cinnamon. (Note: Caution must be used with the HYPP and PSSM horses as their particular syndromes must be carefully considered before choosing certain herbs.)
  • Kelp has been shown in studies to not only provide a vast array of nutrients but also has shown to help balance sugar levels.
  • Healthy fat foods such as flax seed, camelina meal, coconut meal and their corresponding oils are useful in controlling sugar spikes plus supplying the body with a variety of amino acids. Amino acids are noted in many studies to help balance sugar levels.

With consideration to the individual horse and a careful diet plan, these horses can live a long and healthy life. In fact this same basic diet outline is beneficial to the health of all horses! Choosing foods that are as close to “natural” as possible, limiting carbohydrates and removing excess sugars, introducing healthy fats and adding herbs that both aid in regulating body functions as well as providing minerals and especially vitamins that are often missing in the equine diet, will lead to a happier, healthier and more balanced horse.

Jody Webb is the “Solepreneur” of AverageJo Equine, with a line of all natural supplements for horses and dogs. Her Wild Horse and Wild Dog line of products is the focus of years of research with the goal of taking your pets away from chemical laden feeds and supplements and taking them back to as close to nature as is possible in a tamed environment. With her three horses, two dogs, two cats, various rescue horses and their individual issues, there are plenty of willing volunteers with which to perfect each product. This desire came upon finding her then new horse Gideon was suffering from a metabolic disorder called EPSM. Though this disorder can never be cured and there will always be lifelong health issues for Gideon, he has gone from a cranky, underweight and severely in pain train wreck to a sassy and healthy looking beast! Jody is now taking her knowledge learned from owning such a difficult animal to moving on and helping other horse and dog owners have healthier, happier pets. Her writing comes out of the joys and pains of owning such a challenging animal. Learn more about all-natural horse products at Jody Webb’s blog, WildHorseProducts.com.