New to Cushings


Hi all

 Thank God for Yahoo Groups! This is the 4th one Ive joined for sick animals. My old lady Teshan is 24 and diagnosed with mild Cushings just before christmas. Apparently her cortisol was not high (Im going to get an exact from the vet) But the cost of pergolide is slowly killing me - I have 3 other horses as well as a rescue centre of birds and cats plus a family - so I started looking into alternatives.

 I was amazed to find vitex as I was going to trial her on this in winter when she was acting crazy. I was really frightened because it looked like she had full on dementia so it was actually a relief to find out it was cushings. She's never had laminitis, weight difficulties or other problems, just started going nutty and this year didnt lose her coat so we got her tested. 

 So, if a horse of her size would need 80ml per day based on this study

Using Vitex agnus castus extracts to treat Cushing's Disease

What would you recommend giving her as a powder? The powder is very accessible. I would give her 100 - 200gm as a trial.

 She is supposed to be on 5ml pergolide per day and is now losing her appetite. I'd like to reduce the pergolide to about 2ml and give her 100gm vitex powder and see how she goes. She's been good on the pergolide until now and was actually easier to handle (for the first time in her life) before treatment. I have had her for 19 years and she is still my chief crazy horse! The worst problem she had was scouring and staining her legs and tail. Vets had been telling me for about 5 years it was common in older brood mares but this has now cleared up so was obviously related to her cushings. I am also going to tweak her diet - she gets cool conditioner pellet from coprice with oaten chaff, showtime stud and hay, Im going to reduce the sugars a bit. Its going to be a balancing act because she still needs to eat!

 Hi everyone and cant wait to join the discussion!


Re: balancing diet without a analysis...N.E ohio

Mandy Woods

Hi Joanne,
Why did you join ECH3?   Its is closed to new Case Histories.   Did you mean to join ECH8?    I can send you an invite to join that group so you can tell us more about your horse.   Yes,  high manganese is not good.  It does not soak out of hay either.   You may have to test some bales in your barn – just order sugar/starch – and if that passes the test of being below 10% you could continue with the manganese test.   Its possible you will have to source your own hay and keep it at home or rent a small portion of the barn you are in presently.    We cant make any wild guesses from what you have told us so far.   You can go to the DairyOne library and see about hays in your area and how they run.   Only once in 12 years of testing hay in VA have I found high manganese so it might not be so bad in NE OHIO.    You need to talk to one of the volunteers who actually balance hay.  They may have more ideas for you.    There is always a way to get things done~~ you may have to work a little harder!   Your horse would really benefit from having the best diet custom made for him.   Being proactive is a good thing.
Mandy in VA
EC Primary Response
OCT 2003


Re: Extremely skinny just diagnosed cushings horse in Australia please help


---In EquineCushings@..., <belinda.jacomas@...> wrote :

Hi Everyone,
My horse has been diagnosed with Cushings after loosing weight fairly rapidly over the last 6 weeks, he only had a single blood test and it showed quite high cortisol levels, vet thought he wouldn't do well with the Dex test.


Hi Belinda,

Welcome to the group.


Mandy has already given you a plethora of information in her welcome- so I won’t double up on that. I whole heartedly agree with her comment regarding the diet though. Pretty much everything you are feeding is not suitable for a horse with Cushings, with the exception of Hygain Zero. Whilst I’m not a big fan of it- it will do in a pinch and is relatively “safe” if you can’t get hold of anything else. However, I am a big fan of Maxisoy & then Speedybeet.


Please let us know where in OZ you are- I’m in Sth West Vic, near Geelong . I am happy to guide & support you through this time as I know it can be daunting. I can help you source what you need to get started etc.


As far as the Pergolide goes, Can you ask your vet to write a script for the capsules?. Best price is still from Bova compounding


We are entering what is known as our “seasonal high” in the southern hemisphere- where the ACTH rises naturally in all horses. It has the potential to create more issues in horses that already have an elevated ACTH – puts us a bit behind the 8 ball – so to speak.- so this is the time we need to be a bit more proactive.


Have you had his teeth checked to make sure there are no issues there?


I wouldn't worry too much about testing pasture at this stage. It can be done & down the track if you want to do that, I’ll tell you how. I’d be more concerned at this stage about your hay source. What type are you feeding & how much?


If you’re not in a drought area then I’d encourage you to soak your hay until it can be tested.  1 hr in cold water or 30 mins in hot water, drain & discard the water onto the garden. Do you have any slow feeder hay nets? Let him have access to the hay 24/7.



Be prepared for a lot more crazy looks, from feed stores, vets & your friends. You will probably get a lot of well meaning advice from all of them about what to do, how to feed. Believe me; I’ve been in there too. The DDTE protocol that we advocate works- it’s as simple as that. More than likely it will be totally different to what you have done your whole life, and you may find it hard, confusing and frustrating at first. Stick with it; we’ll stick with you through it. Ask questions, read the files


Fill out a case history when you can, if you have trouble with it- let me know



Jack & Spur

Sth West Vic

Australia Aug 07

'Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.' ~ St. Francis of Assisi

Re: Need invitation for 2nd horse CH?

Nancy C

Hi Kerry

You should be able to go directly to ECH8 and add this info to your current folder or start a new one for your second horse.  If you add to the existing folder, use a new CH form and relabel the folder to reflect both horses.

Nancy C in NH
ECIR Moderator 2003
FACT: Standing on cement significantly reduces blood flow to the equine foot.
See R. M. Bowker, VMD, PhD, Nerves, Nerves, Nerves: Why Are They So Important To The Horse?  2013 NO Laminitis! Proceedings,
See RM Bowker, VMD, PhD, The Vascular Cushion Of The Frog What Does It Do?  2013 NO Laminitis! Proceedings, Equine Cushing's and Insulin Resistance Group Inc.


Re: Beetpulp

Nancy C

There is no research.  It is "from observation" adn teh facts around those observations are either nonexistent or not shared.

As said earlier, observation is important.  It's a big part of what we do here.  Observation without critical thinking, knowledge of all the factors that may come into play and knowledge of the physiology of the horse can lead to faulty recommendations.  Mots of the foundation of this group and others like it is a belief system, not based on the facts as they are known today.

Nancy C in NH
ECIR Moderator 2003

FACT: Insulin resistance (IR) is the failure of insulin sensitive cells to respond to “normal” levels of insulin.  See E. M. Kellon, VMD, Diagnosis of Insulin Resistance and PPID, 2013 NO Laminitis! Proceedings, Equine Cushing's and Insulin Resistance Group Inc.


Re: Thank You

Nancy C

Thank you Karen!  I know how you feel.  Keep at it.  You can and will make a difference. 

Nancy C in NH
ECIR Moderator 2003
Invest in the health of your horse and help ECIR Group nonprofit at the same time! Hear Drs Kellon, Bowker and more, in eight hours of great info and informative Q&A from 2013 NO Laminitis! Conference.

Conference Proceedings & Recordings


---In EquineCushings@..., <kfrogner@...> wrote :

Thank You! It keeps me from giving up.


Oregon 2013

Re: ALFALFA/foot soreness Fw: Extremely skinny just diagnosed cushings horse in Australia please help

Kerry Isherwood

Very interesting. On a similar note, even though my mare's IR/PPID is well-controlled right now, she still cannot handle even the tiniest amt of fats--I tried adding the recommended ground flax (just 1oz/day, to start) and within 36 hrs she was PU/PD, hard crest, etc. which resolved quickly w cessation of the flax. Even when she was in hard work last year (eventing) I could not feed any kind of fat/oils w/o similar reactions. Alfalfa, however, she is quite fine with. Fascinating stuff. I hope one day we'll all get to the bottom of these crazy phenomenons for the sake of future horses...

Thank you for your response!

Re: ALFALFA/foot soreness Fw: Extremely skinny just diagnosed cushings horse in Australia please help

Mandy Woods

Hi Kerry,
We really arent sure what/why/how this phenom works but some owners report that alfalfa was introduced and the horses became foot sore. So since we are trying to ''clear the field '' and start with a clean diet slate we recommend stopping alfalfa. Your mare may not be allergic to it. Not all horses are.

Mandy in VA
First Response
Oct 2003

Need invitation for 2nd horse CH?

Kerry Isherwood

Im updating my CH (Pinky) and need to add my second IR horse (Tofurky). Do I need another invitation for the second one? My first horse is in EC8.

Kerry in NY
Pinky Sept 2014
Tofurky Nov 2014

Re: ALFALFA/foot soreness Fw: Extremely skinny just diagnosed cushings horse in Australia please help

Kerry Isherwood

Mandy, Im curious about this statement:

....."Do NOT feed alfalfa. There is a chemical in alfalfa that makes many horses foot sore."....

What is the problematic chemical? My PPID/IR mare is super sensitive to everything but actually does ok on alfalfa (I was feeding Chaffhaye when we were competing heavily last year). I know PPID is progressive so I want to learn about the alfalfa link to foot soreness and avoid it if possible!

Thank you,
Kerry in NY
Pinky Sept 2014
Tofurky Nov 2014



This is a very large group of horse owners with the potential for having a large database of information.  Well-documented scientific data (your case history) helps the ECIR Group gain the trust of science-based equine professionals and shows patterns that shape the protocols that helps so many PPID and IR horses and owners. Sharing your information is the best way to thank the ECIR Group's volunteers for their help. Please take the time to add or update your Case History.




For faster and more relevant answers, please include a link to your case history, photos etc, in your messages – to properly answer any questions the volunteers need to see a case history for your horse.




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3. If you are updating an old Case History but there is no longer enough space on older history groups, feel free to move your information to ECHistory8.



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Fw: Extremely skinny just diagnosed cushings horse in Australia please help

Mandy Woods

From: Mandy
Sent: Sunday, February 01, 2015 11:03 PM
Subject: Re: Extremely skinny just diagnosed cushings horse in Australia please help
Hi Belinda,
Welcome to the group.   We can help you with your boy.   But first we need you to join the ECH8 group and fill out the questionnaire.   I’ll send you an invite to join.   Please take your time answering all the questions.  This will paint a bigger picture for the volunteers to see and then they will be able to advise you correctly and quickly.   Here’s the link too.
The list philosophy is DDT/E.  This means DIAGNOSIS by bloodwork,   DIET, of low sugar/starch forage with the minerals balanced to its assay,  TRIM a balanced foot and EXERCISE of even handwalking depending on the soundness of the  animal.
You say your vet pulled blood for a Cushings/PPID test.   Please tell us the name of the test,  what his numbers were,  the lab units and the normal ranges.   We do NOT recommend the DEX test as it has the possibility of pushing a delicate horse into founder.  We DO recommend the endogenous ACTH test which is a single blood pull.  This test does require special handling which you might want to print.   Its in the Cornell files.  
The medication your vet prescribed for you is not going to work.  We have found that liquid pergolide degrades within 15 – 30 days of being mixed.  The water suspension has the shortest shelf life,  the oil suspension is next.   We recommend a powder/gelcap which has a longer shelf life – up to 6 months.  Keep the bottle in the frig door.    Cushings is a progressive disease so you will have to retest at least annually to get him in the normal range and most likely increase the amount of medication given.  There is also the seasonal rise to contend with when all horses have a seasonal rise in their ACTH levels.   If you read at you’ll find  more information regarding this.
DIET.   Please stop everything you are feeding him.  Start by removing him from pasture.   Grass is very high in sugars. Get a muzzle if you need to put him on pasture.  Tape the holes shut. Build a dry lot.    Start the Temporary Emergency DIET that was sent to you in the New Member primer and in the Start Here files here.   This is critical.  You should soak grass hay for one hour in cold water or 30 minutes in hot water.   Pour the dirty water off where he cant get to it.  Its full of sugar and dirt.   Use poly hay nets,  weigh his hay dry then soak it.  Feed him at least 4 small meals a day at 2% to 2-5% his ideal body weight.   He should not get any  Grains, treats,  apples,  carrots,  commercial supplements or bagged feeds.  You want to feed him as low a sugar/starch diet as you can build.   Soaking untested hay can reduce the sugar up to 30%.    The minerals you need to add today are Vitamin E natural gel caps in soy oil,  Loose iodized table salt,  freshly ground flax seed and magnesium.  The recipe is at and in the Start Here files.  This is the basis for the custom diet you will build for him.   You can use SpeediBeet as a carrier for the minerals.  RInse it before you feed it because it has iron in it.   Do NOT feed alfalfa.  There is a chemical in alfalfa that makes many horses foot sore.  Find a grass hay.    I cant comment on Hygain Zero so for now stop it until it passes the safety test.
Copra should not be fed.  It’s a fat and FAT can worsen IR.   Black sunflower seeds are not correct for the Omega 3 and 6’s.   Flax seed is correct and only 2-4 oz a day.   Rice Bran is not appropriate for him.   Oil is not appropriate.   These products worsen IR.
To test for Insulin Resistance you want your vet to pull blood on a NON FASTING horse.  You want to test for Insulin/Glucose/Leptin.   Just feed him soaked/drained grass hay the night before and the day of the blood pull.   IR is managed by DIET ~ low sugar/starch/fat under 10%.   IR is also a progressive condition.   Any horse will thrive on the DIET we prescribe here.   The Temp ER DIET is just until you get your hay secured and tested.   You can send hay samples to and order the Trainer # 603.   Not only do we consider the minerals in the hay and balance to the excesses and deficiencies we balance ratios.    The good news is there is a strong group of horse owners in OZ that can and will help you source products,  vets, trimmers etc!   You are not alone in this! 
TRIM is a balanced foot with toes backed and heels lowered.   You havent mentioned any lameness but should he become sore you can pull shoes if he has nailed on shoes and put him in boots/pads.   
The sooner you start the new pergolide and the new DIET you will see a change in him. This DIET supports Cushings horses.   We recommend all 4 points that were mentioned be incorporated at the same time to see the best results.   Start a journal on him.  Take photos of his body,  feet.  They can be posted in the PHOTO section of ECH8.  We have hoof people here to help you.    Take a deep breath and ask questions.   Chanda gave you good advice about beet pulp grown in the fields.  RInse/soak/Rinse it and its SAFE!!!

Re: Extremely skinny just diagnosed cushings horse in Australia please help


Hi Belinda

There are a few Aussies on here that will be able to help you and the fab mods will respond with a detailed message soon.

Just wondering what state you're in as we (aussie members) are spread across the country and will be able to assist you with resources going forward.  

Western Downs, QLD
Aus jam/feb 11

Re: Extremely skinny just diagnosed cushings horse in Australia please help

Belinda Jacomas

Thanks Chanda, I will buy some tomorrow and add it to his feed. Belinda

Re: balancing diet without a analysis...N.E ohio

lj friedman

Are you feeding 1 type of hay?  all bermuda?  all alfalfa etc?  If one type of hay or a combo. you can search "  equi-analyisis and they type of hay you are using.". you will see some reports posted.. it will certainly point you in the right direction.. lj friedman san diego nov 2014

Re: Beetpulp

lj friedman

What an intersting read from  annch.. they seem like the peta folks of the horse world.. Made me nervous bec I feed 2.5# of r/s/r beet pulp daily.. I wonder what their reasons/research show ?  I see dr. kellon says bp is an ok product.  anyone differ?     lj friedman san diego nov 2014. 

Re: Extremely skinny just diagnosed cushings horse in Australia please help


I can't answer many of your questions, but hopefully can help a bit with the beet pulp...   Usually the sugars in beet pulp are due to molasses added back for dust control and flavoring, it can still be used but will take more rinsing to get rid of the sugars.   The recommendation is to rinse, soak and rinse again; initial rinse is to get rid of surface dirt and sugars, the soak to fluff it up to reduce choke (also gets fluids in them), and then rinse again til water runs clear to get rid of more sugars.   Beet pulp can be used for weight loss or gain, depending on how it's used; replace grain portion of diet and even some hay for weight loss, or just add it to the diet for weight gain.     If he'll eat it, I'd certainly try it. 


MT 9/04

Extremely skinny just diagnosed cushings horse in Australia please help

Belinda Jacomas

Hi Everyone,
My horse has been diagnosed with Cushings after loosing weight fairly rapidly over the last 6 weeks, he only had a single blood test and it showed quite high cortisol levels, vet thought he wouldn't do well with the Dex test.
He has been on 1mg (4ml) Ranvet liquid pergolide for 2 weeks, but is still loosing weight at a rapid rate.

I am feeding him per day (1/2 morn and 1/2 at night)
20 litres Lucurne Chaff 
5kg of Hygain Zero which is a pellet made from Lupin hulls with added vitamins & minerals,
4 cups of Copra
1 cup black sunflower seeds
4 cups rice bran (Coprice pellets which is rice bran, rice bran oil and added vitamins etc)

All the above feeds (except lucurne) have a NSC of under 10% so they should all be OK to feed.
I have asked at the various feed stores about the NSC content of the lucurne but they don't know, as it comes from a variety of different suppliers so it can vary. Also I have tried to enquire about testing my grass, but the paddock is made up of a mix of about 20 grasses and I can't find much info on any of them, and the feed store look at me like I am crazy.

The volume of what I am feeding is about double the amount of feed he has been quite happy on all his life.

Also I have looked for Alfalfa cubes in Australia but I can only find 1 manufacturer and they don't know the NSC percentage.

My horse looks like he has been starved. He is so skinny and despite being on pergolide for the last 2 weeks he is still loosing weight. I had a look at the emergency diet, but the beet pulp at the feed store all have sugar in them, and is this diet for loosing weight or gaining weight? I am really confused is there anyone out there that can help me at all? I am really upset and my horse can't afford to loose any more weight. You can see all his ribs, his hips are like sharp points, he has a big valley between his spine and the top of his ribs, even his backside is wasted away. He can't have a roll as he doesn't have enough muscle to get down, but he still eats like a maniac, he knows he is starving, but he still seems happy and has a sparkle in his eyes. He is 26 years old, Arab  / Quarter Horse 16.2hh


balancing diet without a analysis...N.E ohio


Hello, My horse is currently boarded ans there is really not a way thay I can get a hay analysis as all the hay comes from different fields.

I believe my area is high in manganese but am not sure about the Cu:Fe:Zn.

would you feel comfortable adding additional copper and zinc?

I know I am leaving stuff out. my horse is not diagnosed with a metabolic disease but I feed him as if he is susceptible .

anyone from N.E ohio have a hay analyisis that shows high mangnesium? I believe high Manganese is fairly common.

I have heard of some people with inconsistent hay supplies supplementing with California Trace.

Thank You.

~Joanne S.

N.E ohio.

Thank You

k frog

I just want to thank everyone that participates on this forum! 

I get so discouraged every day I work as an equine veterinary tech, seeing the multitude of horses that need the level of knowledge and resources that this list provides and the caretakers/owners not open to exploring this information.  

I can't explain it, I can't seem to change it, I can only appreciate everyone who IS here fighting the good fight!

Thank You! It keeps me from giving up.


Oregon 2013

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