Clearing Up Misconceptions About Cushing's, and WINNER!

Yesterday I got to meet a new boarder at my barn who was learning the ropes from Jess, as the new girl is going to be working a few shifts a week. Jess was explaining to her all the various health issues of the special snowflakes in the barn, and explained that Dino has Cushing's, so he needs to get his meds daily, be fed EXACTLY as instructions say, and always have his grazing muzzle on when turned out for extended periods.

Later on, Jess was telling me how everything went, and said that the new girl had asked if I still rode and jumped my pony.

I can just imagine Jess's raised eyebrow look as she replied, "Yeah... like... 3ft. He's very well taken care of and managed, and never foundered."

Having figured out early on how to manage Dino's disease, even I sometimes forget that he's a Cushing's pony. He doesn't have the typical muscle-wasted, super-hairy, overweight, sad look of a horse with raging Cushing's Disease. Often when I tell people he's cushingoid, they don't believe me.

Dino's healthy and sound, because I diagnosed him early and manage him well.

Now I'm not saying I'm the foremost expert in Cushing's Disease, but I've learned a lot in the past few years. The most important thing I've learned about Cushing's is this:

Cushing's is not a death sentence.

I was absolutely crushed when Dino's bloodwork came back positive for Cushing's. I couldn't believe it. My perfect pony was broken. He had a chronic disease that would never go away. He looked like absolute crap. He was getting abscesses all the time. I cried a lot.

And a big part of me thought I'd have to retire him a whole lot sooner than I'd planned.

Thankfully, that wasn't the case.

A lot of people think of Cushing's as a big, scary, career- and life-ending disease, and in many cases, it simply isn't. Cushing's can be absolutely horrible if it isn't treated, but thanks to modern veterinary medicine, it can be really, really easy to treat and manage.

There's no reason that a horse with Cushing's can't still be ridden. There's no reason they can't be shown and competed and live out their days with just as high a quality of life as any other "healthy" horse. With the right medication, diet, and management, most horses with Cushing's can look, feel, and act just like normal horses do.

Dino gets one tiny pill every morning, eats a low-starch diet, gets no sweet treats, and his grass intake is strictly controlled. Dino has Cushing's Disease, and he looks like this:

This guy freakin' LOVES. HIS. LIFE. Nothing holds him back. Not even Cushing's.

On a lighter note, thank you Jen from CobJockey for hosting a fantastic contest to celebrate 100 followers! I am the absolutely giddy winner of a $50 gift certificate to Adams Horse Supply, and can't wait to spend it on a whole bunch of goodies!


  1. Cushings is not a death sentence. <--- this all the way. I've known several horses to be diagnosed and properly managed lived like Dino, looking good, working into old age, showing etc without a problem. I think its only a Death Sentence when people decide to not actively manage it.

  2. You should post more about Cushings - such as what the signs are, how to manage them, etc etc. I'd be interested in hearing yours and Dino's story.

    1. I'll do some informative posts on Cushing's for sure! If you search back in the blog to 2011/2012ish... I think... you should also find some posts that were written right when D was diagnosed. :)

  3. Kudos to you, I love cases where people are proactive, there are a lot of diseases that can be managed if people just choose to do it.

  4. Hi! It's great to see a Cushing's horse doing so well! Was it the abscesses that led you to test for Cushing's? What was the ACTH level?

    1. Hi there! What tipped me off was actually his loss of condition and muscle, and the fact that he didn't shed at all after his first winter with me. I honestly don't remember what the ACTH level was (bad mom!) but it was on the lower end. I started treating with Pergolide/Prascend immediately, and haven't looked back since!

  5. thanks for sharing this! it's great to learn more about the various ailments that get horses, especially when you're finding management strategies that work so well!


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