It’s that time of year again. Curry combs, shedding blades, grooming mitts and grooming blocks are out in full force to combat the spring shed out. You find hair lining the barn aisles, coating your saddle pads and of course, all over your clothes. But what if your horse isn’t shedding out to reveal his usual, beautiful, sleek summer coat? You could be facing a dysfunctional pituitary gland as one of the most common symptoms is long hair that does not shed out. What happens to the pituitary gland and how does it affect shedding?
The pituitary gland is the primary gland of the hormonal system. It is responsible for releasing hormones and telling other glands to release hormones for many body functions including growth, reproduction, stress, metabolism, hunger and to stimulate other organs such as the pancreas and kidneys. Hormones and hormone release are dependent upon both internal and external stimulation. In the case of shedding, it is an external factor: the increasing daylight in spring. The horse’s eyes begin to sense the longer light of the days which triggers the pineal gland to send hormones that trigger the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland produces follicle-stimulating and leutinizing hormones (related to reproductive hormones). These hormones then trigger the thyroid which is responsible for hair growth and loss. As the days become longer, shedding increases. However, in older horses or younger horses that have been stressed due to training and competition, the pituitary gland could be compromised. This can result in a lack of shedding along with a number of other, less visual symptoms. These symptoms can include sore feet, weight issues including overweight or underweight, insulin resistance, thyroid dysfunction, muscle soreness, excessive drinking, poor teeth, lowered immunity, infertility and muscle loss.
So, what do you do if you see any of these signs? An obvious call to your vet is primary but then it comes to choosing a course of action that will be the best for your horse. Looking for natural alternatives as opposed to typical courses of treatment may be what meets your needs best. Reducing sugar intake will be the first and easiest step in order to reduce insulin, fat storage and increase the metabolism of protein. In order to reduce sugars and maintain energy intake, super fibres are the way to go.
According to Dr. Tom Shurlock advisor for British Horse Feeds, “Beet pulp and alfalfa fibre have high degradability and are fermented to produce a profile of volatile fatty acids that, when absorbed, can enter the energy metabolism cycle at various points without stimulating insulin release and minimizing fat deposition. In addition, beet fibre has a proven prebiotic effect we can get more from our forages and potentially feed lower quality (ie. low sugar) hay to further reduce hormone dysfunction. Speedi-Beet (100% Beet pulp with a sugar content of less than 5%) and Fibre-Beet (Beet pulp and alfalfa) are two such super-fibres.”
Along with a low sugar, low starch diet, Chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus) has been the subject of much research indicating the many benefits of using it to maintain healthy pituitary function, hormone levels and support glucose metabolism. Evitex, containing chasteberry, supports normal function of the pituitary gland, manages hormonal balance, metabolic function, healthy digestion and helps maintain function of the reproductive system. Evitex promotes normal shedding, drinking, sweating, healthy muscle tone and overall appearance. Evitex is a natural alternative to maintain hormonal health. It has been Emerald Valley’s #1 product for over twenty years.