Friday, July 28, 2017

Glycemic Index and the PSSM Horse - Rice Bran and Copra

It seems the first year after PSSM diagnosis is a maze of tweaking and reconfiguring your horse's diet and exercise routines.  It's been almost a full year now since diagnosis, and I think I've worked out a great diet for Jax.  Total diet for a PSSM horse should be 10-12% NSC (starch+sugar) - the bulk of the feed will be hay/forage, but the concentrates fed need to be as close to these numbers (or lower) as you can get.  Because you are removing a lot of starch (energy) from the diet, you may need to supplement with fat for energy.  Here's what my boy is currently on and some research that's helped me to feel confident in this feed program:

So, a few months ago I switched Jax to Renew Gold - he is n/P1, so starch/sugar sensitive. He was on it for a couple of months, then the feed was back ordered so I had to switch to something else for almost a month - it didn't work, and he's now back on Renew Gold. The NSC is just under 17% (!!) which terrified me, but after doing some research, I'm not nearly as nervous about it now (plus he does amazing on this feed). So, this post is not intended as a "this is what you need for your horse!" type of post, this is informational, and may help you with your feed decisions
I've been reading about the Glycemic Index, here's a quick quote for you guys:


"Glycemic index is a number. It gives you an idea about how fast your body converts the carbs in a food into glucose. Two foods with the same amount of carbohydrates can have different glycemic index numbers.

The smaller the number, the less impact the food has on your blood sugar.

55 or less = Low (good)
56- 69 = Medium
70 or higher = High (bad)"

Source: Web MD

Jax has always seemed to be hypoglycemic since becoming symptomatic - like his blood sugar levels were always too low (no energy, would become shaky with work which would turn into spasms if he didn't eat), and it would quickly be fixed with a nibble of grass (especially on the trails). Higher fat in his diet helped, but he still needed several quick blood sugar boosts on longer rides.  He's now on a higher fat diet with this feed (about 1 lb) + 1/2 cup of canola oil. The Renew Gold has 17% NSC and that high number comes mainly from the sugar in rice bran. Now here's where it gets interesting - rice bran, while high in sugar, has a very low glycemic index, so it doesn't cause major blood sugar spikes like other carb sources. If glucose isn't being dumped into the blood stream, then it's not being converted into glycogen. This may be why there are so many anecdotal references to rice bran being good for PSSM1 (even though we are taught the high NSC is bad). Here's some stats from an interesting article on the Glycemic Index regarding horse feeds from

High Glycemic Index:
Sweet Feed: 123
Corn: 99
Beet Pulp + Molasses: 95
Oats: 94
Barley: 85

Low Glycemic Index:
Beet Pulp Dry: 46
Alfalfa Hay/Cubes: 23
Bermuda Grass Hay: 23
Rice Bran: 16
Rice bran actually has a lower NSC than hays, beet pulp, and alfalfa pellets. I'm starting to understand why he's been doing so well lately, and why he again started to do worse on the other feed. So just remember, while NSC percentages are EXTREMELY important, and we definitely should not ignore them, there is always more to the story. With more time on this feed, I may find that it doesn't work long term. But for now, he's doing great, and I'm not changing again until I have to!


More information that I've found while looking up hindgut issues, as my boy's stomach seems off from being on the other feed: Renew Gold's main ingredients are rice bran, coolstance copra, and flax. Here's some info I just found on copra and glucose:

"... unlike grain based feeds, CoolStance does not cause a spike in insulin or glucose after it is eaten. This means CoolStance is the ideal feed that can be fed twice a day to suit our busy lifestyles, and does not cause metabolic upset in your horse caused by spikes in insulin and glucose."

So apparently the two main ingredients do not cause insulin spikes, therefore reducing glycogen spikes as well (copra is only 11% NSC). Here's the page with this information for Coolstance Copra


My current feed plan for my boy:

Free choice grass hay, not soaked

1 lb Renew Gold
*1 lb ADM Metabolic Pellets (11% NSC)
1/2 cup canola oil
**1,400 IU natural Vit E
2 tbsp Mag Ox
1 tbsp MSM
2 tbsp salt
54g pea protein

The feeds and supplements are soaked into a nice mash and split into two feedings - half before tacking up and working, and half after work.

* Renew Gold is not a fortified vitamin/mineral, it is a fat/protein/amino acid supplement.  I use ADM Metabolic Pellets with it as it has a great vitamin/mineral analysis and adds bulk to his feed.

** The Vitamin E numbers look low, but there is 500 IU of natural Vitamin E in the ADM feed, and rice bran has Vitamin E but I'm unsure of the amount, so my boy is getting at least 2,000 IU of Vitamin E (with minimal grass included in his diet).  Any amount over 4,500 IU makes him extremely spooky, and as of now this amount has him nice and calm, and feeling good.  As winter approaches and the little grass that he gets is no longer available, I may have to up the amount of Vitamin E.

I also have about 2,600 mg of L-Glutamine (an amino acid) in his diet which seems to help keep his hindgut happy (I'm surprised he had issues on the other feed while still on L-Glutamine).  Now that he's on the Renew Gold again, he'll stay on this until he starts to run low, and then I may wean him off it.

BTW, I swear I'm not a rep for any of these companies...


Other noteworthy comments:

Jax is on a full work schedule of 6-7 (mostly 7) days of exercise a week.  Horses on lower work schedules may not need the same kind of energy sources.

Comparisons between Jax on Renew Gold, and off:
  • Before Renew Gold (and while on the other rice bran-based feed), he had very little canter, and not much trot. 
    • On Renew Gold, not only can he canter but his canter is nice and smooth, he can carry it for any length of time, and he even competed in a fun show (just a bunch of friends getting together and running our horses around for about 4 hours playing silly games - the day after he went out for a long trail ride and easily stayed up with the other horses so he was not sore from this endeavor.
  • Before Renew Gold (and while on the other rice bran-based feed), he had stamina, but without stopping to eat something during longer rides he would get shaky.  He also had a hard time keeping up with other horses on any length of trail rides (he used to be the one in the front at all times because he's faster than the other horses).
    • On Renew Gold,  I still let him stop and nibble grass, but not nearly as much, and it's more as a treat now than something he "needs" to get through the ride.  He easily keeps up with other horses, through all terrains, and sometimes leaves them behind with his big walk, trot, and canter.
  • Before Renew Gold (and while on the other rice bran-based feed), he couldn't handle being cold or rained on (even in warmer weather) - it would cause him to have muscle spasms.
    • On Renew Gold,  he's not been in cold weather since starting this feed, but he has been in rains and storms with no spasm issues.
  • Jax has had very tight muscles in his back, shoulders, neck, and hindquarters for the 6 years I've had him.  Here are his back muscles now:

Friday, January 27, 2017

Well, It's PSSM 1 (Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy)

**This is actually part 5 of my Horse Health series.  I’m going to leave up parts 1-4 as they contain important information and show a typical progression of how the horse’s health can start to fall apart with this disease. Keep in mind that for the previous posts, I had no idea it was PSSM, and not knowing the problem may have contributed to my “panicked” thought processes in those posts ;) **

Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy 1 (PSSM1) is a disorder where the horse stores too much glycogen in their muscles. When they store this excess glycogen, it’s usually in a strange shape, making the process of breaking it down slower. Thus, while the horse has too much glycogen/energy stored in their muscles (in the form of physical, enlarged granules inside their muscle tissues), they actually suffer from too little stored glycogen/energy available for the muscles to use, creating an energy crisis.

PSSM horse, n/P1, horse tying up
Before diagnosis, while on pasture - notice the extremely tight hindquarter/flank muscles

This disorder is genetic. Jax is n/P1, meaning he is heterozygous (only one copy) for the P1 gene (PSSM1 is the disease state, P1 is the mutated gene), so he either inherited it from his dam or his sire (unknown at this time). P1 is a semi-dominant gene, it only takes one for the disease to affect the horse. Some PSSM1 horses seem to be unaffected, others are affected, and the cause for this is currently unknown.

There is ongoing research for another genetic disease known as PSSM2, which may turn out to be a muscle wasting disease rather than a polysaccharide storage myopathy, with more than one genetic variant - this is all still very new and very technical, and is yet to be peer reviewed. However, indications are that these PSSM2 variants can be present with the P1 variant, causing worse symptoms than the P1 variant alone (P1/P1 are usually more symptomatic than n/P1 horses also). At this time, it's unknown if Jax has any other variants.

Well, that’s enough of the brain-jarring scientific info for now. Here’s a recap of progressive issues that Jax has had since July 2015 (see Horse Health parts one, two, three, and four for more).  Keep in mind I was taking him back and forth to the vet trying to get them to see what I was seeing, but Jax is the stoic type and wouldn't show lameness - makes sense, it's painful muscles and not injury, so when he's feeling good or doesn't want to show pain he can still use himself like nothing is wrong.

  • Sticky stifles, (his stifles stick when he’s out of work for a bit, but this was worse than they'd ever been, pretty much debilitating)
  • Sore back and hindquarters
  • Tight muscles everywhere
  • Behavior changes
  • Possible feed/gut complications (ulcers, low grade laminitis - undiagnosed)
  • Atrophied right shoulder
  • Obvious twist in right hind leg at a walk, catching/hitching every step at a trot
  • Can no longer canter
  • Hindquarters stiff and beginning to look atrophied
  • Slight roach back and pelvis tilted with posty/straight appearance to hind legs (overextending stifles and aggravating them even more)
  • Difficulty lifting hinds for farrier
  • Can no longer trot, barely walks around in pasture
  • SI swelling
  • Early 2016 - Colic; switched from sweet feed to Strategy Healthy Edge and started on supplements, including Vitamin E
  • Won't fully weight right front foot - now won't lift fronts for farrier
  • Body soreness everywhere, chiro helps but short-lived
  • Glutes/croup sore - light touch makes him drop his back
  • May 2016 - Long toe / low heel syndrome now apparent (been there for about a year, I just didn't know enough to see it) - apparently all four of his feet had been sore for a while, but since it was bilateral (left and right) in nature there was no head bobbing or hip hiking

Since making the list above, I’ve studied PSSM1 in great detail, and realized he’s been showing symptoms since the day I got him (as an unbroke four year old, August 2011):

  • Tight-rope walking (gives himself splints, especially with metal shoes on)
  • Forging, stepping on his front feet with his hind feet
  • Tight muscles, especially in hindquarters, neck, and shoulders
  • Tripping while ridden and out in pasture
  • During training as a four year old, preferred canter to trotting (the trot is a symmetrical gait, and is difficult for horses whose muscles are damaged/assymetrical)
  • After one intense workout as a four year old, front left leg started trembling 
    • Session was intense because he ran, strung out, through the arena, and I was working on having him slow down and balance himself.  Turns out, it's hard to get a slower, balanced canter for PSSM horses.  This was the only time I saw spasms until it is mentioned below, but several times he was "shaky" which I attributed to nerves (usually while riding on the trailer).  The shakiness is more likely a pre-spasm, his muscles aren't completely in crisis mode, but close.
  • Spooky and anxious, especially in the Spring with new grass growth (sugar).  Would get so scared he'd shake... so many things make more sense now.
  • Walked in a bent “c” shape on trail/road rides, took over a year to get straightness 
  • "Soft feet" - many PSSM horses tend to get Low Grade Laminitis (which is also a metabolic/sugar issue)
PSSM horse, n/P1, riding PSSM horse
Four year old Jax in training

Most of these things could be explained away as a young horse trying to find his feet, which is exactly what happened. As he got older and fitter, all of these things fixed (with regular exercise) and I assumed wouldn’t come back.

Fast forward to mid-2016 (Jax is now 9, has been showing symptoms for about a year).  Just before the diagnosis and after getting his feet back in good shape, I began hand-walking and free lunging Jax to try to get him to build up some strength. In May I took him off grain completely, but left him on his supplements with soaked alfalfa cubes. He started doing much better, stifles got stronger with minimal catching, SI looked normal again, and he was able to trot and canter again. However, his back was still hurting and right hind was still twisting. There was muscle wasting in his flanks and lumbar area (a combination of being out of work for months and avoiding those muscles/compensating for pain).

He also went on pasture full-time for the first time since I had bought him (he's boarded, he had to be moved to a new area so other horses could benefit from a low-grass pasture).  This is probably why he was still having problems - grass can be too high in sugar for a PSSM1 horse. At the end of August, I decided to rip out 40 mane hairs and mail them to Animal Genetics, a company in Florida that does 5 panel testing (HYPP, PSSM1, MH, GBED, HERDA). I opted for the 5 panel as HYPP and MH can be similar in appearance to PSSM. Before I could get the results of his test back (it only took 6 days), he got under an apple tree and ate a few apples (again, sugar). The next day he was having spasms (see video below), and I knew what he had 2 days before the results came back. At this point, I knew I needed to change some things:

  • No pasture
  • Exercise 7 days/week, even in winter
  • Trails needed onsite, as trailering him triggers episodes 

Muscle spasm in August, 2016, days before his n/P1
diagnosis was received

I had a place where we'd trailer frequently to ride the trails, and it was also a boarding facility. I was able to move him there the next day. The next couple weeks were extremely difficult, as the excitement of a move made him worse for a bit. Finally, he settled and we were able to begin working towards getting him as healthy as possible. First hurdle - abscesses. He was still having abscesses from his feet being mis-shaped. The worst abscess he’s ever had came a couple weeks after moving him - it blew out the entire lateral (outside) bar from the sole of his hoof. He was lame a couple weeks prior to it blowing and until a few days after (by the end of September 2016 he was fine). It’s now been 4 months on a PSSM1 diet with 7 days/week exercise, and he’s not had another abscess - in fact, his feet are better than they’ve ever been, and for the first time since I’ve had him, barefoot trail rides haven’t been a problem.

PSSM horse, n/P1, horse tying up
Coming back into work, Summer of 2016, before the move.  Notice the tight, rigid
muscles still in the hindquarters, and the left leg stretched back (this is before diagnosis)

One of the most important things I can stress about PSSM1, is that it's not all about tying up.  I resisted testing him, even though I suspected, for a long time because 'tying up' is the main symptom - but with more research I'm learning that many horses don't fully tie up.  I believe the colic he had in January 2016 was the closest he's come to a full-blown tie up.  I didn't like the way he was moving his feet, or the 3-legged gallop he took when he got too nervous to stand still - I mentioned it to the vet and said I thought he was tying up, but was pretty much ignored because Jax was still moving around.   He was given mineral oil and 10cc of Banamine  (which helps tying up), and within a few minutes he was better.  Since switching his grain (which I started the process of switching him the day after the colic), he's never had another episode this bad, hopefully he never will.

Coming soon - PSSM part 2 - Diet and Rehab for a PSSM 1 horse

Sunday, January 22, 2017

About the Artist and Price List

**Sorry, no  artworks currently for sale due to personal reasons.  Will have artworks available again soon.**

3-D Artworks
Coming soon - 3-D casts!  More info available soon.
Large Original Clay Sculptures - No longer available.
Small Original Sculptures - No longer available.

2-D Artworks
8 x 10 Print - $17 + shipping.
3.5 x 2.5 ACEO Print - $7 + shipping.
(shipping info to be updated soon)

Check out my CURRENT EBAY LISTINGS for specials on artworks!

Contact Jen:

Feel free to contact me if you have questions or comments regarding my methods, artworks or this site.

Clay Artist Jen Pratt
Springfield, MO

*No Soliciting. Contact information is provided for anyone who has questions or comments about artworks, the artist or this site. Please do not contact me for solicitation purposes.

About the Artist:

  • 2001-2003 Southwest Missouri State University Springfield, MO
    • Equestrian courses to further learn conformational and behavioral aspects of the horse
  • 1997-2001 Culver-Stockton College Canton, MO
    • Bachelor of Fine Arts specializing in sculpture

**Due to a break from artworks, all info below is prior to 2010.  This list will be updated as time and health allows.**

Selected Gallery & Exhibition:
  • Art & Autumn, September - October 30, Maschino's, Springfield, MO
  • Visual Artist Alliance of Springfield Summer 2010 Juried Show, July 24 - September 11, Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts, Springfield, MO - "Watchful Eyes" Panther Sculpture, "Friesian" Horse Sculpture.
  • Library Center, Springfield MO - July 2010 to August 31, 2010 - "Journey" Horse Sculpture, "Silver Grace" Horse Sculpture, "Blaze" Horse Sculpture, "Spirited" Elephant Sculpture, and "Wandering Soul" Panther Sculpture - 4653 South Campbell Avenue, Springield, MO.
  • Dancing Lizard Art Gallery - April 2010 to June 2010 - "Journey" Horse Sculpture, "Silver Grace" Horse Sculpture, "Blaze" Horse Sculpture, "Andalusian" Horse Drawing, and Untitled Mountain Lion Drawing.
  • Visual Artist Alliance of Springfield Spring 2010 Juried Show, May 7 - July 24, Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts, Springfield MO.
  • Visual Artist Alliance of Springfield Winter 2010 Juried Show, Feb. 18 - Mar. 13, Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts, Springfield MO.
  • Visual Artist Alliance of Springfield Members Invitational, December 2009 - January 2010, Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts, Springfield MO.
  • SVAA Fall Show, October 2009 - November 2009, Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts, Springfield MO.
  • Keyes Gallery, April 2006 - October 2006, Springfield MO.
  • Culver-Stockton College Senior Exhibit, 2001, Canton MO.
  • 36th Annual Hannibal Arts Club Exhibit and Competition, 2000, Hannibal MO.
  • Culver-Stockton College Student Art Show, 1999, Canton, MO.
  • Culver-Stockton College Student Art Show, 1998, Canton, MO.

Awards Received:
  • 2009 - Honorable Mention - SVAA Fall Show, "Silver Grace" Horse Sculpture
  • 2000 - Honorable Mention - Hannibal Arts Club, "Bust of Jesus" Sculpture
  • 2000 - "Own" Award (Farm Animal Award) - Hannibal Arts Club, "Clydesdale" Sculpture
  • 1999 - Honorable Mention - Culver-Stockton College, "Mountain Lion" Oil Painting
  • 1998 - President's Award - Culver-Stockton College, "Bust of Jesus" Sculpture