Copyright © Brooks Equine Genetics

Dr. Maureen Long

Associate Professor Infectious Diseases and Pathology College of Veterinary Medicine 

Dr. Martha Mallicote

 Clinical Assistant Professor UF Veterinary Hospitals College of Veterinary Medicine 

Symptoms of EMS include:
  1. Chronic laminitis. For many owners, this is the first sign that the horse has a serious problem. 
  2. Insulin resistance (hyperinsulinemia and/or hyperglycemia).  
  3. Abnormal fat accumulations along the crest of the neck, above the tail, above the shoulders, and in the sheath of stallions and geldings.  These horses often have a “pot belly” and are labeled as “easy keepers”.
  4. Abnormal estrous cycles in mares 

Our Team 

This project is in collaboration with:

What is Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS)? 

EMS is an endocrine disorder that is characterized primarily by peripheral insulin resistance.  Although the pancreas of a horse with EMS continues to make insulin, the muscle and fat no longer interpret the insulin signal appropriately. A carbohydrate-rich diet, limited exercise and genetics all seem to play a roll in the development of EMS, yet we don't fully understand why some horses are affected while others are not. 

​ECD, also known as pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID) an Equine Cushings Disease, is an endocrine disorder of the pituitary gland where the hormone adrenocorticotripin (ACTH) is over produced.  ACTH acts to signal the release of cortisol from the adrenal gland; the combination of the two results in many adverse effects. Signs of ECD often resemble EMS, and horses may have both conditions.

We are looking for owners of horses from the Arabian breed to participate in this first study of its kind.  

Arabians have been chosen solely based on preliminary work in order to control for the genetic background among subjects. Further studies will likely involve many other breeds, including those more frequently afflicted by this syndrome. Though Arabian horses are preferred, we may consider Arabian crosses on an individual basis.

***This study requires a farm visit.  At the moment we are only able to enroll horses that reside within a 4 hour radius of the UF campus***

What will happen if your horse is enrolled?

We 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 your appointment as meals may impact insulin measurements.  We will make a farm call free of 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. That’s it!!  The horse can then be fed and go back to its normal routine.

How can Arabian horse owners get involved?

 Please contact the Brooks Equine Genetics Lab for more information and to make an appointment for your horse. You can reach us by phone at (352)-273-8080 or email,  Additional study information and our horse health survey are available below.

What do we need?

 If you own an Arabian horse that is over 10 years of age, we would like you to contact us for possible enrollment of your horse.  We need both normal, healthy horses and those horses with problems with weight control (body condition of 7 or more). If you are a veterinarian, we would like you to pass study information on to any of your clients who may be interested in participating.
We are asking your help to combat obesity and laminitis in horses 
The University of Florida Department of Animal Science and College of Veterinary Medicine in conjunction with the UF Genetics Institute is examining substances generated in the blood in horses that may have what is now termed “metabolic syndrome.”  This disease is similar to Type II Diabetes in humans, where 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 is often hard to confirm by endocrine testing and once a horse is clinically affected, the obesity is very hard 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.  Some of these substances have yet to be implicated in this disease so our 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.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Why the Arabian Horse??

-In our genetic studies we need to control for the genetic background of all horses as much as possible.  Although Ponies and Draft horses may both get EMS, they might not get the disease for the same reasons, or under the same conditions.  Using a single breed of horse will also help us to better detect variables specific to the disease, and not just different between different breeds of horse. In addition to being valued for their hardy nature, the Arabian horse has contributed to many of our modern horse breeds.

Do I have to pay for anything if my horse participates in this study??

-No, all costs for the farm visit and sample collection are covered.  Indeed we try our best to return to participating owners a copy of insulin/ACTH testing results for their horses selected to participate.  

Will my neighbor find out I'm participating??

-No, the names of all horses and owners enrolled in our studies are strictly confidential.  Once the samples arrive at the lab they are given a unique and anonymous identification number, protecting the identity of our participants.  Your neighbor will only find out if you tell them, and hopefully that will be to recommend they participate too! 


EMS in the Arabian Horse

Symptoms of ECD include:
  1. Chronic Laminitis 
  2. High ACTH levels in the blood.
  3. Depressed immune system. Wounds may be slow to heal and the horse may have chronic infections.
  4. ​A long curly hair coat (hirsutism).  This may include a delayed or abnormal shedding time.
  5. Weight loss, due to muscle loss along the back and ribs rather than loss of fat.
  6. Increased water intake and urine output
  7. Excessive sweating
  8. Reproductive issues and infertility
  9. Increased appetite

Ready to participate???

Take the survey below and contact us for an appointment!