HomeExpert AdviceArticleGetting to the bottom of EMS

Ever wondered if your horse might be at risk of equine metabolic syndrome? Learn all about it here and find out how you can give your horse extra support if he’s diagnosed with help from vet Stephen Ashdown

It’s natural for horses to enter a different metabolic state for changing seasons. This helps them adapt to the conditions. The horse’s metabolism naturally changes with the time of year, as does the ease of which he gains weight.

When horses put on fat for the winter – or are good-doers at any time of year – the extra fat they gain can naturally release hormone-like chemicals that change how the metabolic system behaves. The metabolic change can cause metabolic syndrome (EMS), which leads to increased fat deposits, insulin resistance and predisposition to laminitis.

In nature, horses adapt – they winter out and use their stored energy reserves (excess fat) to survive the harsh weather and scarcity of food. Nowadays, with our varied stable management we remove or reduce these environmental conditions, sometimes without a thought for our horses’ metabolic state or natural coping mechanisms.

Food for thought

Failure to be proactive in keeping your horse at a healthy weight could be setting him up for metabolic upset. However, there are lots of contributors to EMS, including …

  • insulin resistance You can have this tested by your vet
  • toxins in environment Pesticides in nearby agricultural fields and airbourne toxins both have an effect
  • excess weight Keep a regular check on your horse’s weight and body condition
  • a rich diet Look out for additional sugars that may affect insulin
  • laminitis or Cushing’s disease Both of which lead to an increased risk of developing EMS

All breeds and types could experience EMS, although some are a little more prone, including…

  • Welsh
  • Dartmoor
  • Shetland Ponies
  • Morgan
  • Arabian
  • warmblood


Signs and symptoms

There are a variety of symptoms you can look out for that could indicate EMS…

  • excess fat, especially on the crest and belly
  • lethargy
  • poor performance
  • sensitive laminae
  • irregular blood sugars or energy levels
  • appearing hormonally unbalanced

EMS isn’t just present in overweight or older horses, and it can often go unnoticed. It’s important to have your horse assessed with a a blood test carried out by your vet if you spot any of these signs.

What can you do?

There are many ways you can support your horse during metabolic changes or EMS, a revised feeding regime is a good place to start, which you can often complement with natural supplements. Equally, helping other owners become more aware of EMS and its symptoms will help maintain the health of the greater horsey population. The more horses we can all help live healthy, normal lives, the better.

Super support

Global Herbs is passionate about providing natural targeted solutions, which includes looking into metabolic sensitivities and exploring how herbs can help. With its all-natural approach, Global Herbs can help support a healthy metabolism. Its solutions are designed to…

  • support the laminae and maintain healthy blood glucose levels
  • promote normal body fat – we even have free weigh tapes available
  • support normal insulin and hormone levels
  • maintain a stable metabolism and general fitness
  • be safe for everyday, regular feeding

For more information, speak to Global Herbs’ knowledgeable advice team or vet Stephen Ashdown

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