What Does The Endocrine System Do?
  • It works closely with the nervous system in your horses’ body
  • The endocrine system sends slower messages around the body than the nervous system does
  • It sends it’s messages around the body in the bloodstream as hormones
  • Its role is to maintain stability and transmit messages around the body
  • Glands secrete hormones to send internal communications (messages)
Do you know that many areas are controlled by the endocrine system?
These include
  • Growth
  • Reproduction
  • Emotions
  • Behaviour
  • Digestion
  • Immune System
  • Metabolism
  • Development
What does the endocrine system consist of?

The Hypothalamus

This area is responsible for transmitting messages to the pituitary gland.

Did you know that the hypothalamus responds to the increase in daylight hours reacts accordingly?


The Pituitary Gland

Did you know there are two parts to this gland? The anterior and the posterior pituitary.

The Parathyroids

These glands control the level of calcium.

The Adrenal Glands

The adrenals sit like little hats on top of the kidneys. The adrenal glands are comprised of a cortex, or outer layer, and a medulla, or inner layer; they secrete various hormones. The hormones of the adrenal cortex are called corticoids. The development and function of the adrenal cortex is regulated by adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), produced by the pituitary glan.

The Thyroid Gland

Converts iodine from food into thyroxine.

The Pancreas

Did you know that there are several hormones in the pancreas?

These include insulin – responsible for decreasing blood glucose, glucagon – raises blood glucose, somatostatin – moderates absorption of glucose and pancreatic polypeptide which is stimulated by the ingestion of protein.


The Thymus

This gland is linked with the lymphatic (immune) system.

The Gonads

Ovaries in females producing progesterone and oestrogen and testes in the males producing testosterone.
Imbalances can occur in any of the hormone-producing glands/organs.

For the ease of this blog, I’ll look at two common issues, stereotypical Moody Mare behaviours and PPID (Cushing’s) and 4 common herbs may benefit your horse.

PPID (Cushing’s)
I love this explanation from Riva’s Remedies of what PPID is. It highlights several things I find interesting and important to consider.

1.  The pars intermedia portion of the pituitary is much more developed in a horse than in a human, obviously a sign of its overall importance for the equine.
2.  PPID was always thought to be caused from tumours on the gland which caused it to mal function. But we are learning that this is not the case.
3.  Caused by a cascade of unbalanced hormones disrupted by diet, IR and excess weight.

“The pituitary, often called the “master gland” is a small bean-shaped organ that hangs down from the lower centre of the brain. Its primary function is to produce various hormones to stimulate and regulate other body functions, including thyroid and adrenal function. It is interesting to note that the pars intermedia portion of the pituitary is much more developed in a horse than in a human, obviously a sign of its overall importance for the equine.

PPID is so called because it causes the horse’s pituitary gland to work overtime. A dysfunctional pituitary associated with Cushing’s disease was always thought to be caused from tumours on the gland which caused it to malfunction. But we are learning that this is not the case. Rather, these tumours seem like “enlargements” – all overworked organs will eventually enlarge – and are caused by a cascade of unbalanced hormones disrupted by diet, IR and excess weight. Therefore, these enlargements or tumours or whatever you want to call them are a result of prolonged stimulation of the pituitary which is on a long call of duty during a health crisis”.

Common Signs of PPID
  • Increase in drinking and urination
  • Depression and/or fatigue
  • Hair
  • Bulging above the eyes
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Excessive sweating

The Wholistic Equestrian advises to always seek veterinary advice when required.

Herbs such as Chaste Tree Berry are well known for supporting horses with issues such as PPID and ‘Moody Mare’ behaviours.

Chaste Tree Berry stimulates the pituitary gland and helps to balance the endocrine functions.

It is traditionally known for it’s actions of being a hormonal balancer and an anaphrodisiac. Meaning it helps to reduce sexual excitement.

We’ve all heard the term ‘Moody Mare’!!
All too often mares seem to get a bad rap for displaying unwanted behaviours when they are in season. These mares are labelled as cranky, witchy, naughty, difficult to train, tarts etc.

I feel, as a sympathetic woman, that at times, it’s not taken into full consideration what the mare may be experiencing when in season. Just the same as women, all mares are affected differently. Some you may not even notice, whereas others, the whole yard will know!

Mares are seasonal breeders. Remember they are only reacting to normal physiological responses. In the wild, a mare will breed and be in foal for 11 months of the year. However, many mares are not bred in domestication or may be bred later in life. This, of course, has an impact on their cycle.

There are many reasons a mare may be reacting the way she is. If you have concerns for your mare, it is always advisable to seek veterinary advice to rule out any serious issues that may be happening, within the reproductive system, or elsewhere.

Mares may display behaviours such as


  • Difficulty tacking up
  • Squealing/Winking
  • Aggression to you and other horses
  • Become more vocal
  • Find it harder to focus
Get to know and understand your mares’ cycle and behaviours.

If you can pinpoint a certain pattern and areas of training that seem to agitate your mare during this time, maybe look at other things to do.

If the same behaviours are cycling roughly every 21 days, then it is possible your mare may benefit from support, such as herbal remedies, acupressure and a sensitive owner/rider!

Remember hormones are powerful things and can affect all of us in extreme ways.

Your horse is always doing the best they can, in the environment they are in.

As always, any questions, ask away.

Have a Happy Day
Amanda 🌿


A Modern Horse Herbal – Hilary Page Self

The Complete Horse Herbal – Victoria Ferguson

Horse Anatomy for Performance – Gillian Higgins

Riva’s Remedies

National College of Traditional Medicine V 1.0, 2018, Herbal Medicine for Animals


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