Podcast #036 – Endocrine Disease And The Equine Athlete

I attended a Zoom meeting hosted by the FVMA with the presenter, Dr. Jane Manfredi of Michigan State. The title of her talk was “Quick On Their Feet: Endocrine Disease And The Equine Athlete.” I arrived a few minutes late, but from what I could tell, this was a presentation on equine metabolic syndrome (EMS), PPID / Cushing’s Disease in horses, insulin resistance/dysregulation, and other points.

I reviewed her presentation, discussing the good points, and, once again, I am disappointed that diet is not placed more prominently. Some of the information was old and not current with human investigations. The usual advice is to diagnose early and get the horse on an effective treatment based on lab work and flow diagrams. For this, Dr. Manfredi did an excellent job.

What makes this podcast interesting is her association of EMS with joint pain in horses using data extrapolated from human studies. She also mentions the importance of the proportions of bacteria living in the gut microbiome in having the horse be thin, just right, or obese. This has been shown in rats as well as humans.

Further, Dr. Manfredi includes her opinion and studies of using a blend of polyphenols (specifically resveratrol) with a blend of amino acids to reduce general inflammation and, specifically, joint inflammation (osteoarthritis). What made this point so strong for me was a podcast I had listened to the day before, in which a legend in the field of human functional medicine also said how effective adding the polyphenols resveratrol and curcumin was in reducing inflammation. By the way, Wikipedia and others say there is no evidence of this effect with resveratrol.

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    1. The answer is unknown as there is little research in horses on this. In addition the onset is insidious and therefore it would be hard to find a marker in the joint or blood that would indicate the beginning onset of OA. This said, we can all agree that it is age related based on observations of reduced activity in seniors (>26 years) and improvement in activity in these seniors after changing the diet.

      Anecdotal reports will also indicate improvement in activity, soundness and willingness of movement (as well as suppression of inappropriate behavior) after removing inflammatory feeds in horses younger than 26 years. The same is true in humans who also report improvement in “joint stiffness” after eliminating inflammatory foods (grains, nightshades, seed oils).

  1. Really great podcast. I have wondered about the resistance band training for horses. We do a lot of ground pole exercises, balance pads, and dynamic mobilization stretches, plus climbing hills for strength training. I can’t always control wether my horse uses herself properly to get the most benefit out of hill work though, especially downhill. I wonder if resistance bands would be another more controlled way to add strength training that is low impact on the joints? Of course the most rapid changes I’ve experienced so far in my horses have been through this diet, which has benefitted everyone across the board. They are moving and feeling like spring chickens, which makes our workouts much more fun. We are so thankful and have been spreading the word to others.

    1. Thanks @Emily for this report. I am not an expert in resistance band training in horses. I believe there is a benefit based on the results found in human strength training with resistance bands.

      I think the benefit of resistance bands in horses are 1) for horses living on flat lands (no hills) and 2) for horses recovering from an injury.

      I hope there is someone who can add to this discussion. I have seen it used on 1 or 2 farms where they believe it does work. Please post any links to “good” reports on resistance bands in horses.

      I am so glad you and your horses are benefiting from the diet and more importantly, you were willing to try. Doc T