Things to know about EMS 

Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS)

Equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) is an increasingly common disease in horses. EMS is a disease of the sugar and energy metabolism, which is triggered by incorrect and too abundant feeding as well as lack of exercise. In the process, messenger substances are formed in the pronounced fat deposits on the neck and croup and released into the body. This is because fat not only serves to store energy, but is also a source of various hormones (adipokines) that play an important role in the regulation of body mass and composition. Adipokines cause the interaction between sugar and the hormone insulin to be disturbed. Insulin resistance develops, i.e. receptors no longer respond to insulin and sugar remains in the blood and is not absorbed into the cells of the organs.


Fat pads on shoulders, mane crest, croup, hose/udder, symptom complex composed of various metabolic abnormalities:

  • Obesity
  • Insulin resistance
  • clinical or subclinical laminitis

Differential diagnosis:

Equine Cushing Syndrome (ECS).

- ECS and EMS often have similar symptoms and can be easily confused in the early stages


In EMS, overfeeding of horses should be avoided if possible. Exercise programmes, with sufficient trotting and canter phases, are a good way to promote insulin-independent sugar from the blood, as the entire metabolism is stimulated. Exceptions are, of course, horses affected by laminitis.

The trace element chromium is of great nutritional importance. Chromium is an important component in existing insulin resistance. This is because it is a component of the biomolecule chromodulin. Chromodulin is the trigger of insulin resistance. It consists of amino acids that store chromium ions. Chromodulin enables the binding of insulin to the receptors of the cells. The binding of insulin allows glucose to pass from the blood into the cell with the help of the GLUT 4 transporter. In addition to chromium, important amino acids are also required for the formation of chromodulin.

Caution! Feedstuffs with a high glycaemic index should be avoided! (e.g. feed with molasses, carrots, apples).



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