Holistic Horsekeeping Newsletter June 2020

June 2020

Why Metabolic Testing is So Important

Holistic Horsekeeping
How to have a healthy happy horse.
Volume 25, Number 6


In This Issue:

1. Why Metabolic Testing is So Important
2. Equine Holistic Resources Just a Click Away


1. Why Metabolic Testing is So Important

Update from the original newsletter. I was able to get all of Cerise’s bloodwork back within normal range but she continued to fail in her overall strength. I put her down in May of 2018. In hindsight I learned a lot from losing Cerise. I don’t feel she was a classic Cushing’s case. I believe her true issue was adrenal insufficiency. The adrenal glad produces cortisol to help the body manage stress and inflammation. I believe Cerise’s high ACTH levels were the result of her body trying to make more cortisol. The Cushing’s Plus and Cordyceps mushrooms are great adrenal support products but they were not enough.

I am now adding a resting cortisol test to the metabolic panel listed below. Normally a resting cortisol is not useful because cortisol goes up and down in a rhythm so one test is not accurate. In this case an elevated ACTH should also result in an elevated cortisol but in adrenal insufficiency cases it does not. I am finding this scenario in some horse diagnosed with Cushing’s but not responding to medication as they should. These are often horses that start showing Cushing’s symptoms early in life. I am so grateful for yet another lesson from Cerise.

Original newsletter article. My 25 year old mare, Cerise, has been having some issues. I first noticed that she walked away from me when I went to catch her for a ride. This is very unlike her as she normally loves attention and riding. Then I noticed her manure getting loose. She has gone through stages of loose manure before so I was not concerned. Then I saw her laying down for an extended period in her pen and when I went to check on her she needed me to help her get up.

I could find no physical reason for Cerise to have trouble getting up. All her joints were mobile and she had no heat or swelling anywhere. I consulted with an animal communicator, Leta Worthington, to see what I might be missing. Cerise told Leta that she just felt weak. Leta felt her weakness was age related. I had already been doing some acupuncture to support Cerise with her kidneys and lower back so I felt something more was going on.

Cerise has had food sensitivities in the past so I made some diet changes but the loose manure continued to get worse. Cushing’s syndrome kept coming up for me but Cerise had no outward signs that would be consistent with this. She had no loss of top line muscles, no long coat, no excessive drinking, no weight loss or immune issues. I decided to go ahead and test her and sure enough her ACTH levels came back quite elevated. She also showed insulin resistance. In hindsight, the weakness and loose manure started about the time the seasonal rise in ACTH levels would have started.

Normal horses have a mild seasonal rise of ACTH levels in the fall season but Cushing’s horses have a much larger increase. This is why a horse with Cushing’s will often have more symptoms or need an increase in medication during this time. High levels of ACTH stimulate the production of cortisol, a stress hormone. High levels of cortisol over extended periods will wreak havoc on a horse’s system causing muscle damage, gut ulcers, weak immunity or laminitis. A horse with Cushing’s has damage to the brain cells that produce dopamine, the hormone that lowers ACTH levels.

Had I only gone by how Cerise looked I would never have thought Cushing’s, but her lab work made her diagnosis clear. I don’t usually like to use drugs but in this case I have ordered pergolide for her. Pergolide is sold under the name Prascend and it works in the body to lower levels of ACTH by helping the horse produce dopamine. I will continue to use body work and acupuncture to support Cerise and I have also started her on a tonic mushroom formula called Tri Forte. Tri Forte contains Cordyceps which is a mushroom that supports overall vitality. Reishi and Shiitake mushrooms help lower yeast infections in the gut. Cerise will be on beet pulp and low sugar hay. I will use CushingsPlus once I get her ACTH levels stabilized. It is very hard for a horse to respond to holistic treatments alone when ACTH levels are high because the high cortisol levels block all efforts the body makes to heal.

I prefer the equine metabolic syndrome diagnostic plan offered by Cornell lab for metabolic testing in horses. It is important that the serum be separated from the blood within a few hours of it being collected so you will need to haul your horse to the clinic or have your vet come to you on his way back to the clinic.

Here is the link to the discount shipping label portion of Cornell’s website:


Your vet needs to set up an account with Cornell in order to send the samples to them directly.
(1)EDTAplasmainLTT(separatedandplacedinplastic tube or plain RTT) and frozen within 4 hours of obtaining sample; AND (2)serum (separated promptly). SHIP CHILLED/FROZEN.
Plan includes testing for ACTH, Insulin, Leptin,Glucose and T4

2. Equine Holistic Resources Just a Click Away

Has this ever happened to you? You are out at the barn and realize you are getting low on a particular supplement for your horse, but by the time you finish your chores and get back to the house and your computer you get busy with other things and totally forget to order it. Now, if you have your SmartPhone or tablet with you at the barn, you can avoid this with just a few simple clicks. Holistic Horsekeeping has a totally mobile friendly site that allows you to easily order while it’s fresh in your mind. Supplements, books, educational materials, consults and more are available on your mobile devices at holistichorsekeeping.com.

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