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Nutrition Considerations for the Insulin Resistant Horse or Cushings Disease

The primary focus in feeding the IR or Cushings Horse is to reduce the simple sugars in the feed.  The simple sugars are best analyzed by a method called ESC or Ethanol Soluble Sugars - glucose, fructose, and sucrose..  These simple sugars are readily absorbed in the horse's digestive system.   The second most important aspect in feeding is reduction of starch.  Starch is chains of glucose units which are easily broken down in the stomach and absorbed.

Equi-analytical Forage Labs is an excellent source for sugar specific testing.  The sugar specific lab results are listed as WSC, ESC, and Starch.  Note that the WSC or Water Soluble Carbohydrates is a combination of simple sugars, long chain carbohydrates, and probably complex structural carbohydrates.   Some  long chain carbohydrates are  non-digestible plant sugars that are probably not significant to the IR or Cushings Horse. Therefore, the ESC and Starch combined is used as an analysis of sugar content of hay.

The ESC + Starch analysis of hay for long term management should be less than 10%.  A low ESC and Starch analysis may preclude further processing of the hay.  Soaking the hay will "leach out" the simple sugars into the surrounding water.  Hay should be soaked for approximately an hour and the water changed after each soaking.  

The Equine Cushing's and Insulin Resistance Group Inc. is an excellent resource for the horse owner -  https://www.ecirhorse.org/

An Equine Cushings and Insulin Resistance Outreach Group  (ECIR Group)  is available for extensive information and to disucess individual horse problems.  For the horse in a crisis, the group offers initial treatment and diagnostic suggestions:

New Member Primer - IR Treatment and Diagnosis - Eleanor M. Kellon, V.M.D.  (The Equine Cusings and Insulin Resistance Group)

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