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Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition

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 Dr. Getty 


Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition
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shetland pony and insulin resistance

For the last 4 years we have had a shetland pony who is 14 years old. He is 9 hands and weighs about 400 lbs. His weight has been fairly stable. He is muzzled 7 to 8 months of the year, gets about 12 hours of turnout daily, one small flake of timothy hay when stalled (that he rarely finishes)and no grain. We do give him carrots or apples as treats. He has never had a foot problem until this past winter when he had an abscess first in one front foot and then the other. The second abscess has been coming and going for over 2 months. We think it is subsolar and we are missing a small pocket of infection (he has done a course of SMZs.) We have tried soaking his feet, photon therapy, iodine and he is currently on an herbal supplement called 4 hooves (by Equilite.) He is improving and is sound now, but has a mild pulse in all four feet. We had his feet x-rayed today and had bloods pulled to test his insulin levels, etc. The vet said she thinks he is insulin resistant (I tend to agree) and that we should cut out all treats and give him quiessence and MSM. He needs to lose weight, but how?? We plan to increase his exercise, but how much can we cut back his grass consumption?? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Where are you from? virginia

How did you locate this forum? google search

Re: shetland pony and insulin resistance

Hi Diana,

Yes, he is likely insulin resistant, so that means you should cut back on starchy and sugary feeds. So, reducing the carrots and apples would be best. Instead, offer him some alfalfa cubes as a treat.

I would not suggest cutting back on his hay. In fact, by limiting the amount of forage you are feeding, it is actually slowing down his metabolic rate even further, making it very difficult to lose weight.

So, here’s what I suggest – and I know you will find it strange – but to help him lose weight, feed him more! Allow him to have timothy hay throughout the day. Don’t put it all in front of him, but give him small flakes throughout the day – like small, frequent meals. Eating actually stimulates the metabolism, making him burn more calories.

Another thing that increases the tendency to store fat, is stress. Actually, it is the secretion of the stress hormone called cortisol. By putting a muzzle on him, the frustration is causing more cortisol to be secreted, leading to a higher tendency to store fat.

So, my advise: 1) Take off the muzzle, 2) Exercise him daily, and 3) Give him frequent meals of hay.

Also, add some alfalfa cubes to the diet to boost his protein quality.

Quiessence is fine and will improve his insulin response. MSM will help with him foot inflammation.

If you give this a couple of months, he will very likely lose weight. Please keep me posted.

All the best,

Dr. Getty

Re: shetland pony and insulin resistance

Hi Dr. Getty-

Thanks so much for getting back to me - I've been out of town and am just now reading your response. I just got the results of the x-rays and bloods too. His feet look great, just a small pocket of old tissue from the abscess that we have now reached and cut out. The vet is convinced that he had a sub-clinical founder last year because he has a series of rings on his hoof (he was never even remotely unsound.)His bloods however aren't great. His insulin level is 65, glucose was 117 and cortisol was also high normal (I can't read the number on the fax.) I agree with your premise that we have slowed down his metabolism by limiting his access to forage. If we take his muzzle off though (and he does HATE it - he has worn through 5!) we'll need to move him to a dry lot or to a smaller field away from his buddy. Won't this also increase his stress. The other option is to keep him in his stall and only take him out to graze him which is far from ideal. And what about the quality of the hay we give him? He has not been getting the greatest hay in an attempt to keep him from foundering. We feed our horses a very good quality hay that's a mix of orchard grass, timothy and alfalfa. Would this be too rich for Peanut? We do plan to longe him for some forced exercise (the only knid he'll actually do) and so whatever else we can to help him out.

And again, I really do appreciate your advice.

Where are you from? Casanova, Virginia

How did you locate this forum? internet