Certain equine nutritional diseases are more prevalent in the Spring and Autumn due to a raised sugar content in the new grass growth ‘flush’.
It’s all linked to insulin levels. Insulin is responsible for the storage of sugars as fat in the equine body. As fat stores develop through the spring and summer months, hormones are released that reduce the effects of insulin – so called ‘insulin-resistance’. This insulin resistance then enables the breakdown of energy stores previously amassed from the winter months. As such, our natives breeds such as Shetlands and Welsh Mountains, have evolved to cope with cycles of weight gain through the summer and weight loss during the winter. Temporary insulin resistance is therefore, beneficial.
However, domestication means that our native breeds no longer have to cope with cycles of winter feed deprivation (as we tend to feed them during the winter months). They therefore become more and more insulin resistant and if insulin cannot function as it should, the equine body’s response is to produce more of it. So, we end up with a huge hormonal imbalance which triggers laminitis.
This condition whereby horses and ponies develop fat deposits and then insulin resistance is referred to as ‘equine metabolic syndrome’ or EMS and is similar to human type II diabetes.
Please do get in touch for further information if you have any concerns about insulin resistance and schedule an individual consultation.