My Personal Journey with the Equine Cushings & Insulin Resistance Group (ECIR)
Many of you may recognize this handsome face. He is the horse on the Vermont Blend label. His name is Chances Solid Gold, "Chance", and in 2004 he led me to the Equine Cushing’s and Insulin Resistance Group, (ECIR).
The ECIR Group was started in 1999 and became a US 501(c)3 nonprofit in 2013. The group is completely comprised of dedicated volunteers, who are here to help support horse owners in what is often a time of crisis. Owners of horses with PPID (Cushing’s), or metabolic disorders often simply stumble across ECIR in their search for information to help their horses, or are introduced to them by a friend, farrier, or vet. Emotional support and camaraderie are the first things a horse owner will experience with ECIR. That feeling of being helpless and alone subsides, and you take your first deep breath. The ECIR angels will guide you through the process to help your horse. Guidance is backed by science and years of experience. For more detailed information on the ECIR Group click here.
Chances Solid Gold
Chance came into my life in 2003 when he was 18 yrs old. I had leased him for a few months prior and fell madly in love with him. One day I walked into the barn to find Chance with a big red bow on his back and two red roses on each of the cross ties. It was my birthday and my husband bought me the present of a lifetime.
Not long after, I decided that we were going to do a "BBB Year". This was what I called a year of riding Bareback, Barefoot, and Bit-less. Over that winter I started to notice changes while riding. I started to feel Chance's spine through the bareback pad. As time went on, I found myself purchasing a thicker bareback pad and rolling up a towel to tuck under the pad just behind his withers. His top-line muscles were wasting away.That spring, Chance started shedding before all the other horses. Since he was my first horse, I had never experienced "shedding season" before. As his thick winter coat fell off, I could see this sleek golden coat underneath. I remember telling his previous owner that it was like unwrapping a Christmas present. However, as other horses finished shedding, Chance still had a ways to go. When the vet came out for spring shots, he suggested testing for PPID (Cushings). (Click here for more symptoms of PPID.)
Results came back positive, and he was started at .50 mg of compounded pergolide. At this time Prascend was not available. Chance never experienced the "Pergolide Veil". ( Click here for more information on medication and the Pergolide Veil.) Instead, he experienced the opposite initial effect—he felt really GOOD. So good, that I had to stop riding bareback!
I now wanted to know everything about PPID and started searching online. This search lead me to Dr. Kellon and the ECIR Group.
ECIR and Chance
I was greeted warmly when I first joined the ECIR forum. The stress I was feeling diminished as I spoke to others who had been in my shoes. Through this group I learned all about PPID, proper testing, medication, and the best diet to help support Chance. I can recall one day, while I was at the barn, I was sitting under a tree with a notepad, calculator, and hay analysis. As I was crunching numbers to balance the minerals in his hay, my friend came up to me. She asked what I was doing. When I explained, she said she felt bad for me. I always remember this moment because for me, I felt just the opposite. I felt empowered, thanks to the knowledge the ECIR provided me. I was actively doing something that would benefit Chance.
Every year I had Chance's ACTH, Insulin, and Glucose levels tested. If needed his medication was increased to keep his ACTH levels in the normal range. Chance always had normal insulin and glucose levels. He was PPID, but didn't have Equine Metabolic Syndrome/Insulin Resistance. I balanced his diet every year when we got the new season's load of hay in.
Life with PPID
PPID did not slow Chance down one bit. We continued to have many wonderful adventures together. Some of our adventures included Christmas Caroling on horseback, swimming in Lake Champlain and being the first horse both of my kids had the pleasure of riding!
Chance never developed laminitis. Instead we spent 13yrs riding barefoot! He lived a happy life, feeling good and being loved by myself and my children; Levi and Logan.
Chance lived to the wonderful age of 31....13 years with PPID. I encourage every horse owner who receives a positive diagnosis for PPID or EMS/IR to reach out to the ECIR group.