Two Ponies, Two Cases of EMS
Natalie Henry, of Georgia, has two Dartmoor pony crosses. The gelding is half Quarter Horse; the mare is half Thoroughbred. They are halfsiblings through their sire. Natalie has owned both of them since before they were 2 years old and says they have been “easy keepers” since day one. Unfortunately, she has had to manage both ponies for EMS.
Natalie’s mare was diagnosed first. “I noticed something was off with her the spring she was turning 5. I was riding nearly every day and she was still pretty pudgy. She had a few fatty deposits across her topline and a very cresty neck,” she explains. “Our first real indication that something wasn’t right was a very slight bilateral lameness in the front. She just didn’t feel like herself. Her coronary bands were warm and she was increasingly uncomfortable in front.”
The mare was showing early signs of laminitis, so Natalie immediately pulled her hay and grain, kept her off the grass and called the vet, who arrived the next morning. By then the mare had fasted for nearly 24 hours. The vet performed a blood test, which came back positive for insulin dysregulation. She was treated aggressively and recovered quickly.
The gelding’s case was similar but occurred later in life. At age 13 he started developing fatty deposits and his weight was less responsive to both exercise and a restricted diet. Given his half-sister’s history and Natalie’s heightened awareness of the risks, she had him quickly tested for EMS. His numbers came back in the normal range, but Natalie and her vet opted to add a low dose of Thyro-L (levothyroxine sodium powder) to his diet anyway.
“He isn’t clinically EMS, based on his bloodwork, but everything in his life mirrored what his sister was exhibiting, and he’s responded really well to the same treatment.”
Natalie took all the right steps to treat and manage her ponies’ EMS. She reduced the sugar in their diets by switching them to a low-starch/ low-sugar grain. In the springtime, when the sugar content is higher in the grass, she reduces their access to pasture by limiting their turnout time or keeping them in a small paddock with less grass. She also continues to give them a daily low dose of Thyro-L and makes sure each horse gets regular exercise.
“The feed, hay and supplement changes have mostly managed things without need for much more intervention,” she says.
Now age 15 and 14, both ponies are thriving and Natalie has even noticed a marked improvement in their temperaments since beginning treatment for EMS.