How can I spot metabolic changes in my horse?


Grooms take care of horses for the long haul.  We know their itchy spots, their attitude, their language, their likes, their demands, their habits.  We also know what’s normal, and what’s not.  Every morning during our routine “cop a feel” checklist, we know if anything has changed.  

We also need to be aware of the long term changes that our horses may exhibit.  You will not just suddenly notice these things, they occur over time and it’s the Grooms job to notice them.  Some of these changes may indicate metabolic changes that can be diagnosed and treated with the help of your Veterinarian. 


Metabolic issues, such as Cushing's and Insulin Resistance (IR) have major health implications for your horse.  Luckily, a blood test or two can be easily carried out, and the management of such conditions is easy.  Often, diet, diligence, and some medications can help your horse and lessen the risk of laminitis - which is clearly linked to metabolic issues.  



This fuzzy coat (in August) is a sign of a metabolic issue.  A fuzzy coat is not the only indicator - and just because your horse is NOT fuzzy doesn't mean he's out of the woods!


The following list highlights some of the signs of metabolic disorders.  

  • Changes in the hair coat.  Long and/or curly hair, maybe super fast growing!  Is your horse’s hair growth different from last year?
  • Cresty neck that is not muscle. 
  • Fat pockets, usually found on the tail head or around the shoulder blades near your saddle’s knee block.
  • Pendulous belly - like a puppy’s belly.
  • Topline loss
  • Decrease in muscle mass
  • Soreness after shoeing
  • Diminished energy
  • Becoming an “easy keeper”.



A simple blood draw and lab testing can give you loads of information! 


Remember, any change in your horse is a sign of something!  Talk to your Veterinarian to determine why, and find out how to help your horse thrive again.  And keep being a diligent, observant Groom as you take amazing care of your horses. 

How did you spot metabolic changes in your horse?