Published 20th April 2018

When a farrier tells you that you have achieved something remarkable on horses he has worked with for years you can’t ignore it. This article may be of interest to those with horses and ponies that suffer from either Cushing’s or Laminitis. It describes the journey that led Mark Aikens to see dramatic changes in Cushing’s ponies that he had worked with for years. The changes included:

  • Improvements in hoof horn growth and quality
  • Improvements in the integrity of the hoof capsule, bone structure and the supporting soft tissues
  • Reduction the classic curly coat of Cushing’s ponies
  • Improvement in the pony’s general demeanour and wellbeing
  • Eventual elimination for the need for corrective farriery.

Like many equine diseases there has been very little proper academic research on the two debilitating conditions Cushing’s and Laminitis. There is a well-established drug treatment for Cushing’s and while that approach works well for some animals it can have severe side-effects in others. Some vets are even considering a surgical approach which suggests that some are not comfortable with drug therapy as an option. If there were nutritional approaches that could help some cases, wouldn’t it be great to be able to add them to the portfolio of options?

At EquiFeast we came across a promising nutritional candidate when customers of our unique, patented chelated calcium (calming) technology started to report laminitic horses showing improvements in lameness, digital pulse, hoof structure and even the broader symptoms of EMS. This led us to run some field trials which happened to include one pony that was diagnosed with Cushing’s but not yet on any medication. An outline of that horse and a pony with Equine Metabolic Syndrome and Laminitis is in Box 1. This also includes a third pony that was given just chelated calcium in a separate evaluation.

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Click here to enlarge Box 1

We attempted to expand the original trial specifically into Cushing’s horses but sadly ran into a few road blocks. We failed to get support from Cushing’s’ groups on social media and sadly, none of the Universities we approached to work with had a Home Office licence to take blood samples. Instead we recruited a small number of horses, mostly in Australia and Canada. This did not make a statistically adequate pool but did provide us with a number of anecdotes backed by up blood data. This has helped us to conclude, in a small number of veterinary diagnosed Cushing’s cases, that this simple nutrient helps enormously - by which we mean eliminating symptoms without the need for drugs. However, these trials also show that not all Cushing’s horses respond to this. In Box 2, we explain what we believe is going on in these horses.

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Click here to enlarge Box 2 


These limited trials did enable us to further our understanding by testing another hypothesis that could have dramatic implications for diagnosis. There is really no clear and definitive diagnostic test for Cushing’s’ except for the appearance of the curly coat. The med's suppliers to the market for years have offered free ACTH blood tests. Unfortunately the latest research confirms that false positives can be easily generated by both seasonal effects and diet (higher starch) effects. Box 3 describes a test that is very cheap and simple – if a little time consuming – that provides a good indicator. See Box 3.

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 Readers in the UK - please click here for LamiCORE.

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Click here to enlarge Box 3 


Calcium signalling

Box 2 explains what we believe is happening with Cushing’s horses. But it doesn’t explain many of the other benefits seen by riders, vets, farriers and other therapists. So how can laminitic ponies benefit?

Calcium signalling is involved in processes that last for milliseconds (like the sending of a nerve impulse or the contraction of a muscle fibre) right through to processes that go on for hours, weeks, months and years (like the release of keratin to make the hoof horn or the collagen that makes up the structural material in the laminae, tendons and ligaments).

Bones are remodelled and repaired by cells that use calcium signalling, the acid released into the stomach is controlled by calcium signalling and so is the sweat produced to cool an athletic horse down.

Excess Magnesium

We have found that the enemy of the calcium signalling process is excess magnesium. Excess magnesium blocks the calcium receptors that are required to switch a number of cell functions on. The biochemists tell us that magnesium is incredibly difficult to control and the science that has been done on horse’s shows that individuals fed higher magnesium diets can retain a lot of it.

Research in both Canada and Australia shows that magnesium impairs the spook response but this doesn’t necessarily lead to calmer horses. In our business we find that when riders use our magnesium controlled diets, 84% of the horses perform at their best with NO ADDED MAGNESIUM.

Each horse can rely entirely on the magnesium in their natural feed sources (grass and hay) which is almost always comfortably in excess of the recommended daily allowance. On a recent analysis of the sales, we have no horses on our feeding system getting more than 0.8 grams a day of added magnesium. Yet most feed balancers add 3 grams and many formulated feeds add 5-15 grams a day. None of this is justified by the science.

Please note that there are people who believe passionately that extra magnesium is essential for all sorts of horses. They can be exceptionally aggressive on social media. Whenever we have challenged them they have NEVER supported their arguments with even the tiniest bit of horse based science. Like us they have anecdotes and they may well help some horses by blocking calcium signalling with magnesium. That is using magnesium as a drug which is entirely legitimate but NOT the ONLY way forward. They are, of course, entitled to their opinion. And so are we. Click here for the equine science.


In USA and Canada you will find LAM Essentials here:

 Readers in the UK - please click here for LamiCORE.

Readers in Australia - please click here for BREAK FREE or Cool, Calm & Collected