Re: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and Laminitis

Julia Cunniffe

Thanks Maggie, I have been managing my Shetland pony with IR for several years so most of this information I am already aware of and using for him. He lives with company on a scraped mud track, with soaked hay and the same very low sugar feeds etc that Jazz has. To manage Jazz and her companion also on a totally mud track will be a massive undertaking. The track they are currently on doesn't have much grassy area left, but is so incredibly slippery (we're having a very wet, warm winter here in the UK) with all the rain we've had I am terrified that they will injure themselves even more significantly.

Unfortunately, the picture that Jazz is presenting with is not all that consistent with Laminitis which is why I have not yet had any blood work done on her. My vets had suggested nerve blocks and Xrays, to see if it is just a single foot lameness, but as she will not allow even hoof testing, she would definitely not permit nerve blocks without sedation, which would I believe render them useless.

During the last week she has been moving around the field in total comfort, trotting, cantering, rearing and playful, with some herbal anti-inflammatory alternative to bute. She has walked out on a soft surface for 20 minute walks and voluntarily continued on the road, when she didn't have to. This has been with her living out on her very muddy track with little grass. 

Then last night she once again looked very much as if she has a right fore abscess again, and didn't want to move. So she is back in her stable( and tiny crew yard because she cannot cope with being shut in totally and to enable her to be able to see her companion properly). This morning she looks more to have bilateral discomfort, as she will not allow me to lift the right fore to pick it out, which I presume must be due to discomfort of the left fore.

Unfortunately my previous trimmer, who's vet husband has also been very supportive, has now gone down the 'self-trimming' route and therefore is not willing to support me with the trim, which I have continued with on my own. The trim i was using with them based was on the work of Jaime Jackson and Dr Bowker, had worked brilliantly for my pony when he had problems but I have been unable to find another professional that performs the same kind of trim.

I shall try and provide one of the case studies you request today, but am unfortunately really struggling with this emotionally as I feel I am letting Jazz down, and am struggling to pull myself together atm. Currently at my wits end knowing who to turn to for professional help as I feel my vets have no interest and minimal understanding of the problem, and my ex-trimming friends feel I need to just give her pain relief and let her keep moving!

I will consider the blood-works you have suggested and perhaps get them done this week, possibly with a right fore xray, hopefully to rule out abcess and/or rotation once and for all.  

Thank you for your support, it is really appreciated. I apologise if I come across as being negative and/or defensive, but as an overly sensitive person who has already practically had a nervous breakdown trying to sort out the ponies IR/Laminitic problems in the past...I am a bit of an emotional wreck again trying to work my way through this for Jazz. 

Best Wishes,


On Saturday, January 9, 2016 3:42 PM, "spiral1957@... [EquineCushings]" wrote:

Hi Julia,

Welcome to the group!  You can never provide us with too much info, and you provided a nice summary of your mare's issues.  But in order to get the best help we ask that everyone fill out a case history on their horse.  To do that, you'll need to join one of our sister groups called ECHistory8.  It's a filing cabinet for storing case histories, and keeps all the CH's in one easily accessible place.  Here's a link to that group:  It won't take long to get approved and then just follow the instructions for filling out a CH.  You can copy and paste a lot of the info that you have already provided in the free form "time line" section at the end of the CH form.

Meanwhile, I will explain our philosophy called DDT/E, which stands for Diagnosis, Diet, Trim and Exercise, and point you in the right direction for some more reading.

Diagnosis:  Forgive me if I missed it, but I am not seeing any mention of lab work.  Is that right?  The first step in getting a good treatment plan underway is a good diagnosis.  To get that, we recommend these 4 tests:  ACTH, insulin, glucose, and leptin on a NON-fasting horse.  At the age of 10, Jazz is just at the cusp of the age that we recommend you do the ACTH to rule out (or in) PPID (Cushing's disease).  PPID is an enlargement or benign tumor in a part of the pituitary gland called the pars intermedia, not usually seen (though not unheard of) in horses under the age of 10.  It's treated with a medicine called pergolide.  IR is not a "disease", but a "metabolic type" of horse, normally, but not always, described as easy keepers with abnormal fat pads such as cresty necks, puffiness in the hollows of the eyes, excessive drinking and urinating, etc.  IR is treated with a low carb, low fat, mineral balanced diet.  A horse that has both PPID and IR would need both pergolide and a carefully managed diet for the rest of it's life.  Any horse can have just IR, just PPID, or both (or neither).  With regard to the labwork, the ACTH is to diagnose the PPID and the insulin and glucose for diagnosing IR.  The leptin helps to differentiate if the horse is IR at baseline or if an elevated insulin is being driven by a high ACTH.  Leptin is the hormone that says "stop eating", and insulin resistance and leptin resistance go hand in hand.  More information about leptin resistance can be found in the first file in this folder:  The labwork does require special handling so please read more about that on our website here: 

Additionally, you are going to want to read Dr. Kellon's  ECIR 2013 Proceedings on Reproductive Abnormalities in Mares with Diet Resistant Insulin Resistance.  Look here:  Scroll down to the free PDF's and it's the 4th one up from the bottom of the page.  This will give you another diagnostic tool to consider.

Diet:   To provide a low carb, (less than 10% sugar+starch) low fat (4% or less), mineral balanced diet, we use grass hay, tested to be under 10% sugar + starch, with minerals added to balance the excesses and deficiencies in the hay, plus salt, and to replace the fragile ingredients that are lost when grass is cured into hay, we add ground flax seed and Vitamin E.  This diet is crucial for an IR horse, but also supports the delicate immune system of a PPID horse.  Until you can get your hay tested and balanced, we recommend that you use the Emergency Diet.    It does involve soaking your hay for an hour in cold water or 30 minutes in hot water to remove ~30 of the sugar content.  Make sure you dump the soaking water where the horse(s) can't get to it.  Though not intended for long term use, the emergency diet addresses some of the most common deficiencies.  More details about the emergency diet can be found on our website here:  Once you get your hay tested you can look in this file for a list of people who can help you with mineral balancing (first file in this folder):  Or since you are in the UK, you will probably want to continue to work with Sarah at Forageplus.

A very important part of the IR diet is what you DON'T feed. No pasture, no grain, no molasses containing products, no sugary treats including apples and carrots, no unsoaked hay with an either an unknown ESC+starch content or ESC+starch that is above 10%.  Plain white salt blocks only--the brown/red ones contain iron (and sometimes molasses) and unknown mineral amounts which interfere with mineral balancing.  As I read your note, I was really struck with the need to keep Jazz completely off the grass.  Many people struggle with this concept, but the fact is, many IR horse just cannot tolerate any grass at all.  

Trim:  A proper trim is toes backed and heels lowered so that the hoof capsule closely hugs and supports the internal structures of the foot.  Though important for all horses, it's essential for an IR and/or PPID horse to have a proper trim in place since they are at increased risk for laminitis.  Here are the links to our website on a proper trim.  Here:   and here:  You are welcome to post pictures of your mare's feet so our hoof guru can help you to determine if you have an optimal trim in place.  Here's a site that explains how to take good hoof photos:   Please put any photos and/or xrays in the PHOTOS section of ECH8.  That's the group you join to fill out your CH.  The CH's are in the "files" section, pictures in the "photos" section.  

Exercise: This is the best IR buster there is, but only if the horse is comfortable and non-laminitic.  Once she is able to tolerate increased movement, we recommend hand walking in long straight lines with no tight turns, which puts increased stress on the new laminae as they grow in.  Boots and pads may be in order for comfort during the rehab period.

I hope you find some information in this that helps you, Julia.  There is TONS of great information on our website, in our files and also in the archived messages.  You can search for anything using the "search converstions" and "search files" boxes.  But don't hesitate to ask any further questions that you have!  Let us know when you have your case history done!  We ask all members to please sign each time you post with your name (first is fine), date of joining, and general location (which helps us to source products for you).  When you get your CH done, you will want to add a link to it in your signature as well so that we can find it faster and answer your questions faster!  See my signature below as an example.

Maggie, Chancey and Spiral in VA

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