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Dolly's Story

Updated: Aug 18, 2023


Cushing’s PPID (Pituitary pars Intermedia Dysfunction) diagnosed aged 19

EMS Equine Metabolic Syndrome diagnosed aged 20

It all started with PPID, I noticed that Dolly was peeing a lot more than normal and her stable was very wet, her winter coat was becoming very fluffy & long. Clipping was needed as she was sweating in the mild winter weather and her coat was not shedding in the spring, so I was clipping her again and now I clip throughout the year depending on Weather temperatures. She really feels the benefit from this, and I can clip without a head collar she just tends to dose off.

Mood changes, Dolly had always been a very happy and easy to do mare however her mood had become grumpy, she had no energy or enthusiasm to be ridden (this was not like her at all) The vet came and took blood tests, and the results came back conclusive with high levels of ACTH which meant she had Cushing’s.

Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction, or PPID, is an endocrine disease that can affect any horse, pony, or donkey, regardless of breed, sex, or management. It’s a progressive, degenerative disease, so incidence increases with age, and it generally has a slow insidious onset, making it difficult to detect and diagnose in the early stage. The excess hormones produced affect various body systems, and individual horses can show different symptoms, some of which can be serious, like laminitis.

You cannot prevent this condition and usually comes with age in horses, looking back I think Dolly started small signs of this disease when she was 16 the signs can be subtle, A feeling of being unwell.

She was started on 1 Prascend (Pergolide) a day which seemed to help with the coat shedding but not the mood, I know a few horses now with PPID and all seem to have a mood change which is their new normal. She is on 2 Prascend a day 2022 aged 21.

It has changed the horse that I once knew. However, helping her to be as comfortable as possible is my main aim these days.

We had stopped the schooling in the arena as she just had become sour, so we carried on riding out which Dolly was not enjoying much at all and was very sluggish and really didn’t want to be tacked up.

We moved yards to a quieter and more peaceful atmosphere, and she really liked her new home.

Her mood was still not good, and she became sore in her front feet, (lamanitic) so the vet came and did more bloods for ACTH and now Insulin levels IR which both were very high.

We also had x-rays done which were sent to my Barefoot Trimmer so she could trim appropriately. I had decided to take Dolly's back shoes off a year before and was working towards fronts off, which we did 6months after her back shoes came off.

I do not keep her in for any real length of time as she is much better out moving around with hoof boots or pads on. This stimulates the hooves natural growth and healing process and no restriction from metal shoes . Plus Physiologically it is better for the horse.

So now we had EMS as well this is Equine Metabolic Syndrome a bit like diabetes in humans and the horse becomes Insulin Resistant. I.R.

Get the Gut Health Right to help stop inflammation

This can be managed with a very low sugar /starch diet generally just a chaff (Honey chop lite & healthy or Thunderbrooks Herbal Chaff) to mix with added Mineral/Vitamin supplements and any pain medication. Plus Weighed Hay then soak.

I do not believe in a starvation diet as this can cause other issues with regard to Ulcers and behavioural issues. Just no Grass!

I feed a constant supply of Hay and Dolly has gotten used to this and will leave some if not hungry.

I have used Trinity Consultants Western Salts M & V. However, there are other companies like Progressive Earth, Calm Healthy Horses and Equi-biome that do very good M/V powder supplements.

Dealing with Laminitis - a symptom of PPID and EMS.

Cause – Inflammation in the Laminar

Symptoms – Foot sore = pain this can be at varying levels, however if you spot it early you can act quickly. You will notice Event lines on the hoof which can indicate other lamanitic episodes.

What to do? Don’t Panic! although this is easier said than done and can be very stressful and worrying. Just make sure you do your research and ask for help.

Firstly, get your horse off the grass.

EMS & IR horses do much better on a dry/mud paddock or track system which are becoming more widely found around the country have a look at Longmarsh track system livery in Somerset and Graveney Track system livery in Kent and Gawsworth in Derby, Plus Facebook sites like Track Systems UK, which is horse owners doing their own systems. These systems get horses off the grass (hay fed) and promote movement.

What to do!

· Move horse off grass

· Call the Vet (you might need X rays)

· Pain relief (Bute / Danilon)

· New drug out called Steglatro (Ertugliflozin) speak to the Vet for advice.

· Deep shavings/Auboise type bed

· Pad hooves for extra comfort and support, (pads, vet wrap and tape)

· Use Hoof boots if needed for extra support when turning out into a grass free paddock or better a track system.

· Feed soaked hay, 2% maintenance weight of horse or 1.5% weight loss for your horse so a 500kg horse for a maintenance hay net would be 10kgs of forage a day including feed. Weight before soaking.

· Feed only small bucket feeds of chaff this is a carrier for you pain relief medication and minerals and other supplements.

· Get a good Barefoot Trimmer/Podiatrist or Farrier

This will take time as a hoof capsule will take approximately 10- 12 months to grow out

Subtle symptoms of PPID

· Lethargy (not wanting to be ridden)

· Muscle loss, often most noticeable across the top line

· Weight loss and pot-belly appearance are common and may be seen with patchy fat deposits developing in the neck and around the tail head

· Excessive drinking and urination

· Laminitis often occurring in the Autumn/ Spring (warm, wet weather)

· Either excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis) or failure to sweat (anhidrosis)

· Increased susceptibility to infections

· Poor resistance to internal parasites

· Development of allergies and hypersensitivities (e.g., vaccinations, flies)

· Infertility

· Slow spring shedding with long, coarse, and sometimes curly coat with failure to shed completely occurring in advanced cases.

Useful information

lots of information and good advice on Cushing’s EMS and IR.

Dolly will never be able to graze in a field again and lives on a small track on a diet of hay and feed with enrichment from foraging the hedge rows. Cleavers, Willow, hazel, cow parsley, thistles, hawthorn, yarrow, dandelion, plantain and many more!

It is about managing the situation to the best of your ability for the welfare of your horse (friend)

Helen & Dolly x x

Dolly 2001 to 2022 such a special friend, forever with me in spirit x

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