UK Researcher Studying "Easy-Keeper" Horses

Equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) is a devastating disease characterized by the three main features of obesity (cresty neck and fat deposits are characteristic), insulin resistance, and laminitis. Certain breeds or individual horses and more than often middle-aged horses are predisposed to EMS, and are often referred to as "easy keepers."

Amamda Adams

Dr. Amanda Adams and two of her research horses.

While statistics disclosing the percentage of horses suffering from EMS are scarce, there is a myriad of articles on the subject of "obesity" and/or "EMS," indicating that EMS is a major concern for the U.S. horse population. One of the factors that make EMS a devastating condition for the horse is its association with increased laminitis risk. Laminitis is a degenerative inflammatory condition of the hoof that is very painful to the horse, is difficult to treat, and often leads to euthanasia.

Currently, medical treatments for EMS horses that improve insulin resistance and decrease inflammation to minimize laminitis remain scarce.

Amanda Adams, PhD, assistant research professor at the University of Kentucky's Gluck Equine Research Center, hopes to better understand why the disease occurs and to find a safe and effective way to treat EMS horses before laminitis becomes a problem. The success of these studies depends on establishing a herd of EMS horses that will live out their lives and will be well taken care of in a comfortable environment at the UK farm and will make a difference for other horses suffering from EMS.

UPDATE: Since this article was posted on Friday, Adams received numerous phone calls regarding potential research horses and has reached her limit on the number of horses she can accept.

Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.