University of Florida researchers are examining ways to combat obesity and laminitis in horses.

The study will analyze substances generated in the blood from horses that might have equine metabolic syndrome.

This disease has similarities to type II diabetes in humans, in which conditions of obesity are linked to abnormal responses of insulin, the hormone that controls sugar levels in the blood. A combination of abnormal response to insulin, diet, lack of exercise, and genetics are hallmarks of this syndrome in people and there is much evidence that horses are affected similarly. Unfortunately, this disease often is hard to confirm by endocrine testing and once a horse is clinically affected, the obesity is very difficult to control. A life-threatening result can be the painful condition of the hooves, laminitis, or founder.

The goal of this study is to measure chemical signatures in the blood that will help us dissect why horses develop this disease. Many of these substances have yet to be implicated in this disease. The researchers' state-of-the-art analysis (called metabolomics) will generate new targets for early diagnosis and treatment. These substances will be analyzed against each horse's diet, exercise, and overall health history in order to account for these important factors.

Researchers are asking for owners of Arabian horses to participate in the study. Arabians have been chosen solely based on preliminary work, and to control for the genetic background among subjects. Further studies will likely involve many other breeds, including those more frequently afflicted by this syndrome. Although Arabian horses are preferred, researchers may consider Arabian crosses on an individual basis.

If you own an Arabian horse that is older than 10 years of age and you are interested in participating in this study, please contact the University of Florida for possible enrollment of your horse. Researchers need both normal, healthy horses and those horses with problems with weight control (body condition of 7 or more).

What will happen if your horse is enrolled?

Researchers will set up a morning appointment on a day that is most convenient for you. You will have to fast your horse after midnight on the night before the appointment as meals may impact insulin measurements. There will be no charge to collect several tubes of blood from each enrolled horse at your farm or stable. The horse will undergo a brief physical examination and have its picture taken. A short period of time will be taken while on the farm to process the sampling immediately. After the examination, the horse can then be fed and go back to its normal routine.

There is no cost for participation. Researchers will provide the results of the insulin/ACTH testing, although this may take several months to process. Researchers will also send a letter at the completion of the study summarizing the research findings.

If you are interested, call 352-273-8080, or visit Brooks Equine Genetic Lab for more information.