New Member: Need Advice Before Adopting EMS Horse

Fiona Paton

I have joined this group because I am in the process of adopting a horse and have suddenly discovered that what was described in his profile as a "mild laminitic episode" with "slight rotation" is actually a series of severe episodes with significant rotation. My vet and farrier have looked at his x-rays independently and both agree that he has acute and chronic laminitis. Both have advised me NOT to adopt him and they feel that he likely has EMS. However, before I make up my mind I want to learn as much as possible about this horse's potential future. He is only 12 years old. Currently he is out on pasture and being fed oats, and I fear that he will soon have another severe attack of laminitis. I feel compelled to rescue him--but what will the future hold? Is it hopeless?

Fiona Paton
NY 2022

Maxine McArthur

Hi Fiona
You will get an official welcome message soon, which will answer some of your questions in that it will show you how you’ll need to manage this horse. You may or may not have the resources  to do so. Episodes of laminitis on pasture do indicate EMS but you need to do blood tests to have a firm diagnosis. 

The situation for this horse is indeed hopeless if it remains on pasture and eating oats. Whether its future with you would be hopeless depends on what you intend its job to be and the extent of the damage from the laminitis. Some horses experience degradation of the coffin bone and are unable to grow a hoof sound enough to be ridden, although they may be pasture (or in this case, dry lot) sound. If you can create a folder in the Case History sub-group and post the X-rays, our hoof-savvy mods can comment further.
Maxine and Indy (PPID) and Dangles (PPID)

Canberra, Australia 2010
ECIR Primary Response


Eleanor Kellon, VMD

Hi Fiona,

No one has a crystal ball but if he keeps being managed like that you are likely right that he's headed for disaster. It's almost guaranteed he has EMS.

Can you get a case history up with as much as you know ASAP?

 Can you post his radiographs for us?  A video of him moving would also be helpful.

Do you just want him to be comfortable or are you looking for some sort of work?
Eleanor in PA 
EC Owner 2001
The first step to wisdom is "I don't know."

Bobbie Day

Hello Fiona
I just wanted to give you a Pat on the back for even considering this poor horse. My little mare was IR/PPID she was a rescue too. We lost her last year but it wasn’t because of either one of those. I only had her six years but I can tell you even though her care pretty much ran my life, she brought me so much joy and love that I can’t even begin to tell you. Her care was expensive, heartbreaking (at times) and stressful but I don’t regret one minute of it. She brought me here to this amazing group and I know (not think) that her life would have been over if I hadn’t joined and followed the recommendations here. So if you have the love to give, although it will be tough she (or he) will be grateful, I know that’s true too. I still miss my mare terribly, her life mattered. All horses do so if your up to the challenge we’re here for you. Anyone can rescue but it takes a special person to actually save a horse.

Bobbie and Maggie 
Desi (over the rainbow bridge 7/21) 
Utah, Nov 2018
ECIR Group Primary Response


Hopeless may depend on what you want this horse for. 
My gelding is 23 and is IR and PPID (dx with PPID in 2019).  He is at my house since we have some acreage.  At times it's frustrating and exhausting to manage him.  Been battling "mild" laminitis off and on for a year now.  Just started him on metformin this week since his insulin has historically always run high to varying degrees - kicking myself for not starting it sooner.  I only have one horse friend that's really capable of getting the metformin in him twice a day - so that makes going out of town difficult which is not fun because my parents are over two hours away and aging.  I need to get over there more often and that just got harder than it already was.
My vet won't prescribe compounded pergolide so I'm stuck with expensive prascend for his PPID - his medicine costs more than a year of hay.  Not every IR horse is PPID.
EMS horses are about figuring out what that individual horse needs in terms of management.  This group is a treasure trove of experience and good advice. 
If you adopt this horse it sounds like it needs to live on a dry lot and then you can figure out diet and handling those feet.
Props to you for researching this and still considering this horse. 
Go in with your eyes wide open if you adopt it. 

Tracy and Salsa (1999 model year Paso Fino)
Middle TN USA, September 2019
Case History

Shera Felde

Hi, Fiona
My EMS mare has responded very well to removing all grass, keeping her feet trimmed, regular exercise, and monitoring her starch/sugar intake. It is a learning curve but this group is invaluable and there is so much joy in reaching the healthy place with these horses. 
Shera Felde, Central Oregon, 2020