This week’s Question for Jenny…
This week’s question comes from Susan and Fuego and is about Equine Metabolic Syndrome.
Susan’s question is about what else she can do to help her little grey Arab Ca Feugo, now a 9 year old. He has been diagnosed with Equine Metabolic Syndrome in the last 4 months, after a nasty bout of oedema and hives.
What is EMS?
Equine Metabolic Syndrome (commonly called EMS) is a veterinary term used to describe horses presenting with obesity and/or large fat deposits, insulin resistance and recurring laminitis.
The veterinary texts say that the insulin resistance is caused by too much, too rich food and being over weight because of it. Some parts of the medical profession are still saying that about human insulin resistance too.
What lies behind?
By looking behind the problem of EMS, we can see a bigger picture than just obesity and get a different perspective.
More recent research in obesity in people (validated by the new approach of diet leaders like Jon Gabriel) has revealed that it is actually deprivation – physical deprivation caused by dieting or emotional deprivation (usually a combination of both) that is behind excessive weight/insulin resistance and the inability to heal that easily. Physical deprivation can also be triggered by chronic vitamin, mineral or trace element deficiencies or problems with digestion that can cause nutritional deficiencies.
We alternative therapists already knew that, but it’s nice when science catches up. 🙂
This emotional deprivation fits with Fuego, who before Susan bought him, had been a very troubled riding school horse and didn’t do well in the herd he was in. Then he developed oedema and while being treated for that, had an outbreak of hives that seems to have been the trigger for the EMS.
Whatever the original cause of the EMS, treating the symptoms (just like it does in humans) of insulin resistance and overweight horses by forcibly dieting them, triggers brain chemicals that actually lays in fat cells, that will – anytime you let up on the dieting or exercise for even just a bit – that will fill those fat cells up with fat and the horse’s weight will actually increase. This has you feeling like you are constantly waging a losing battle trying to keep the weight off your horse.
Sound familiar anyone?
Note here that most vets recommend treatment of Equine Metabolic Syndrome by seriously restricting the horse’s diet (they recommend feeding only low sugar hay and no grass at all) and exercise exercise exercise – and drugs of course.
The personality type of the EMS horse
Understanding the personality type of the typical EMS horse is important in understanding how best to help them recover.
Just like in Cushings disease, I have noticed that every case of Equine Metabolic Syndrome that I have come across has been a Caretaker type of horse. They’ve all been horses who tend to slow down or even freeze when they are afraid or confused, who tend to go inside themselves when they are stressed, rather than express it by running away, etc.
Caretaker horses are the easiest horses to misunderstand and the easiest to traumatize when we don’t understand how they think and react. Because they tend to freeze or slow down when they are afraid or confused, they tend to carry even more emotional stress as tension in their bodies and experience even more ill health that comes from that stress and tension than other types of horses.
The good news is that no matter what kind of horse personality you have, when the emotional stress is released, the tension disappears and the ill health can start to heal. That’s exactly what we do around here – teach people how to help their horse to RELEASE old stress, resistance and tension, RE-LEARN whatever it is in the right way for them and RE-PROGRAM that into their muscle memory really quickly.
How can you help an EMS horse?
I am sorry that a lot of people are not going to like the way that I express the following, but bear with me for a bit and read the whole lot, because I am sure that it will make sense in the end.
If a horse is exercised without consideration for their enjoyment, then they are experiencing just another form of the same kind of stress that planted the seeds of the EMS problem way back at the beginning – another form of drudgery, another form of the emotional deprivation that we talked about at the beginning of this article. Even liberty work can be described as drudgery if it’s the “cause them to want to do it” variety.
Even if emotional deprivation was not the original cause of the insulin resistance – adding ANY kind of stress or emotional resistance absolutely will NOT contribute to the healing of any horse. I guess that’s why vets talk about “managing” EMS rather than “fixing” it and why we alternative therapists who deal with the emotional causes of things as well as other big picture issues, are more likely to talk about fixing things.
Peacefulness, happiness and joy are not just airy fairy words – they can be a practical outcome of certain ways of working with your horse – for you and for them. Whatever exercise is done with any horse riding or on the ground – should be of the variety and in a way that they enjoy doing.
We don’t need to be advanced riders or handlers either, to bring out those kind of yummy feelings for our horse and ourselves.
I live my life by looking for the big picture behind every problem (similar to everything happens for a reason) and what I have noticed is that issues like EMS when attended to in the way that I am describing, instead of being a “problem” can turn out to be a blessing that increases the beautiful bond with our horse.
Releasing old stress is 100 % do-able even for beginners with horses
And the healing that takes place from releasing that stress is achievable by even beginners as well. Come do some work with us and find out how easy that can be.
Feeding an EMS horse
The veterinary recommended treatment of EMS is usually to heavily restrict the available food, to restrict the calorie intake – to take them off grass altogether and feed them on a restricted amount of low sugar hay with mineral supplements. Again I’ll be blunt – no wonder in the veterinary approach the horse never gets well and has to be supported with drugs forever.
I could go on and on and write reams about the cause/s of EMS and reams more about how to fix it, but the bottom line is that each horse has to be treated as an individual, so check out whatever training we’ve got going on at the moment, whether that’s in the healing department or horsemanship department, because healing and horsemanship are intricately connected.
And get started on eliminating your horse’s EMS.Email me for the details of any upcoming clinics that will speed you on your way even faster.