Get involved with research

It is our goal to determine the genetic role in this devastating disease which affects a large number of horses.  However, in order to achieve this goal, we need the help of horse owners to accumulate data on as many horses with equine metabolic syndrome as possible.   In order to identify the underlying genetic susceptibility to EMS, we need to compare a large number of horses with EMS and a large number of normal horses or “controls”.  In this comparison, we evaluate the DNA in EMS and control horses and identify genetic differences. The genetic differences which are highly correlated to having EMS can be used as genetic markers for the disease. The long-term goal is to use these EMS genetic markers to detect horses susceptible to EMS and laminitis before they have clinical signs. Once susceptible horses are identified, management practices can be initiated to better protect them from developing disease. By assisting in our project, you will provide us with information essential to further understanding EMS and ultimately determining ways to better manage EMS.

Step one

If you want to be involved in our equine metabolic syndrome research project we ask that you first click the “Survey” link and provide answers to the listed questions (you will need your veterinarian contact information available when filling out the survey).   Within approximately one month following the initial survey submission, we will notify you if your horse is deemed an appropriate candidate to proceed to “Step two”. 

Step two

If your horse is determined to be an appropriate candidate and you wish to continue being involved in our project, you will be sent a second short survey requesting additional information about the horse along with information for another horse on the property that is not suspected to have EMS to serve as a “control”.  An ideal control horse will be of similar age and breed, have no history of laminitis, not be considered overweight, and not showing signs of Cushing’s (delayed shedding, increased drinking/urination).  You will also be asked to submit digital photos of the horses  and submit body measurements

Step three

If your horse is determined to be a likely candidate for equine metabolic syndrome research based on the submitted information (this may take a few months to determine), and you wish to remain involved with the project, we will ask you and your veterinarian to provide us with a blood sample (at your expense) which we will analyze (at our expense) for glucose, insulin, ACTH, triglyceride, and nonesterified fatty acid concentration (you will receive notification of the results).  A portion of the blood sample will be used for DNA isolation and stored for genetic research.  The blood sample should be taken sometime  between 7AM and 11AM and the horse should be removed from pasture a minimum of 12 hours prior to blood sample collection.  It is okay for the horse to receive only grass hay and water during this 12 hour time period.  You will also be asked to provide hay, pasture, and feed samples which will be analyzed free of charge.  In addition to the free baseline blood analysis described above,  all selected horses will be invited to participate in an optional oral glucose tolerance test which involves administration of Karo light corn syrup by mouth (about 75 mL for an 1100 pound horse) and then collecting a second blood sample about 1 hour later.  The oral glucose tolerance test provides a better estimation of insulin resistance. 

*This project was supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative competitive grant no. 2009-55205-05254 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Animal Genome Program.