When starches and sugars are consumed, the body releases insulin, a hormone that cues absorption and storage of sugar from the bloodstream. Overfeeding starch and sugars can make horses “insulin resistant,” meaning the body cannot absorb glucose properly to fuel the body.
Although obese horses are more at risk for insulin resistance, it also occurs in horses of normal weight. The condition is known to be associated with repeated bouts of laminitis. Although there is no cure, insulin resistance can be controlled by managing or eliminating concentrates, grains and lush pasture from the diet.
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This article originally appeared in the 2010 issue of Horses USA.