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How we tackles EMS

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

From my understanding, there are a few different ways equine owners can manage their EMS horse's back to health. At PB Livery we do things slightly differently to what typically would be deemed as the normal approach but has proven time and time again to be successful.

When rehabilitating a horse, we focus on three aspects of their care – diet, movement and trim. This isn’t specific to treating EMS cases but something we do with all of our rehabs and long-term retirements as there are a number of benefits to be seen throughout all different aspects of their health.

So, we’ve welcomed a horse into our care with a diagnosis of EMS. What do we do to rehabilitate this equine back to health?

Firstly, diet is crucial and the effects of an unsuitable diet can go well beyond the likes of EMS and Laminitis. The very first thing we do is detox said equine off of any grass and any unsuitable feeds. This detox period, which is something every single new horse goes through, lasts roughly 6 weeks - 6 weeks is generally enough time for any unnecessary sugars to leave the body. During this time, we change the horse onto a basic, low sugar, low potassium, high fibre diet (species appropriate) and a combination of Calm Healthy Horses UK products to help with the detox period. Personally, we use a mix of Copra, Linseed, Meadow Nuts and Hay Cobs with Thunderbrook’s Chaff for our hard feed. Additionally, we also add salt to their bucket feed (10 grams per 100kg) and continue to offer optional salt through other methods on the track such as salt licks, loose salt and salt water. All of our Paddock Paradise systems are non-grass which means we eliminate further risk (which is key also to detoxing) and instead, feed adlib meadow hay in a variety of small hay nets, hay boxes and large hay bales.

I appreciate many equine owners have been advised to restrict hay by vets and other professionals and so you may be thinking, what on earth? Our horses are designed to eat constantly. The stomach of a horse is the smallest unit of their digestive tract and can hold roughly 8 –15 litres. Depending on what they’ve digested, the stomach takes 4 –6 hours to completely empty. By restricting hay or feeding in short bursts, a horse is more than likely going to stuff themselves as quickly as possible and then spend the rest of their time hungry, leaving their stomachs completely empty. After the 4-hour period it takes for the stomach to empty, we increase the risk of encouraging stress-related behaviours, food guarding and even ulcers. At PB, we don’t want to sacrifice one aspect of your horse’s health for another so we do not restrict hay consumption to treat EMS. However, this does only work if your horse can move around and exercise which the Paddock Paradise requires to work efficiently.

Now that a species appropriate diet has been established, all sources of grass have been removed and the horse has completed the detox period, the diet has set a foundation we can build upon to achieve a healthier horse. This now allows us to concentrate on achieving more movement and exercise which contributes to weight loss and the loss of fat pads. This is one of so many reasons we are crazy about the Paddock Paradise and encourage anyone able to do so, to set one up for their equines. The Paddock Paradise encourages movement naturally, and soon becomes an effortless part of their daily life. Through engaging more muscles and increasing exercise, we see an increase in fitness levels, stamina, muscle and of course, the body then transforms naturally.

Barney, EMS and Laminitic Rehab ongoing -

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