Prevention and Management of EMS in Horses

Prevention and Management of EMS in Horses

Prevent or reduce obesity through controlled starch and sugar in the total diet along with exercise (unless horse is painful from laminitis episodes).

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Researchers are still working to develop treatments for equine metabolic syndrome (EMS), so taking preventative measures though diet and exercise are the best defenses against the development of EMS.

Here are some great defensive strategies to help prevent your horse from developing EMS:

  • Prevent obesity by providing a forage-based nutritionally balanced diet with controlled starches and sugars.
  • Maintain an optimal body condition through regular exercise.
  • Work with an equine nutritionist or veterinarian to understand what a healthy weight and body condition is for your horse to help prevent over-feeding or dietary imbalances that can contribute to EMS.

For horses who already are dealing with EMS, follow these tips to help successfully manage their condition:

  • Prevent or reduce obesity through controlled starch and sugar in the total diet along with exercise (unless horse is painful from laminitis episodes).
  • It is recommended that these horses have very little to no access to fresh pasture to avoid the overexposure to the sugars in grass. Use of grazing muzzles or a dry lot are good alternatives to stall confinement, as this allows the horse to exercise on its own.
  • Have a nutrient analysis done on your hay to understand the nonstructural carbohydrate (or NSC) content, keeping in mind that it is important to understanding to NSC content of the total diet (hay plus grain, if applicable).
  • Soaking hay (15 – 30 min warm water) can help leach out some of the sugars in the hay. Just be sure to feed the hay right away, and discard the sugar waste water, so the horse does not have access to it.
  • Low-calorie ration balancers are good horse feed options to balance the diet if there are vitamin and mineral deficiencies from feeding a forage only diet, and/or from soaking hay.

Reprinted with permission from The Feed Room, by Nutrena.

About the Author

Emily Lamprecht, PhD

Emily Lamprecht, PhD, earned her doctorate in Endocrinology and Animal Biosciences (with an emphasis on equine nutrition and exercise physiology) in 2009 from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. She also holds bachelor’s degrees in Animal Science and Psychology from University of Missouri, Columbia (2003, 2004). She joined the Cargill Animal Nutrition Strategic Marketing and Technology team in August 2009 and currently serves in the role of Technology Lead for Consumer Nutrition. Her primary responsibilities include formulation, managing research and new product development for the equine and pet businesses within the United States and internationally, and providing technical support to Cargill businesses, veterinarians, feed dealers, consultants, and customers. Lamprecht is a professional member of the American Society of Animal Science and the Equine Science Society. In her spare time, Lamprecht can be found volunteering with the Minnesota Search and Rescue Dog Association and continues to be an active member of the equine community. She trains and shows her horse in the sport of dressage and enjoys spending time with her husband, trail riding, and hiking.

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