As you make travel plans this summer I am sure your horses are at the top of the to-do list. There are a thousand things to consider but I bet gastric ulcers isn’t one of those things.
Believe it or not, your horses experience stress when their usual routine gets interrupted, especially when it comes to feeding time.
So even if you only plan on being gone for a short period, it is very important that you have a horse nanny that can keep your horse calm and, more importantly, on your horse’s normal routine.
As you will see, your horse being without feed, even for a short period of time, can have disastrous effects on its health. Gastric ulcers in horses are more common than you might think.
Research has shown that 80-90% of racehorses, 70% of endurance horses, and 60% of show horses will have ulcers at some point in their careers. Why are they so common? First, we need to look at how a horse’s stomach works.
A horse’s stomach is actually quite small in comparison to other mammals. It is designed for frequent small meals over an extended period. Unlike humans, a horse produces hydrochloric acid twenty-four hours a day. They can produce up to 9 gallons of acid per day! The horse’s own saliva is nature’s best protection against ulcers. However, saliva is only produced when the horse is actually eating.
Next, we have to look at the differences between performance and non-performance (pasture kept) horses. Horses that are kept out to pasture very rarely suffer from ulcers because they have a constant supply of grass and, therefore, produce saliva constantly. In contrast, a stalled horse may go hours between meals.
Some other factors that predispose a horse to ulcers include:
Next, we need to look at the symptoms of gastric ulcers in horse, which unfortunately, can often be subtle and vague. The symptoms can include:
Lastly, we need to know not only how to treat ulcers but also how to prevent them. Treatment can be costly and involves medicating your horse daily for thirty days with Omeprazone paste (an acid pump inhibitor). Right now, Omeprazone is the only FDA approved treatment for gastric ulcers.
Prevention involves long-term management changes. Such changes should include:
Understanding the causes, recognizing the symptoms, and knowing your treatment options can go a long way in helping your equine partners. However, without long-term management changes it is highly likely that the ulcers will return. Therefore, having a well-informed horse nanny that will keep your horse on its usual routine is very important to your horse’s overall well-being!
Christy lives in Arkansas and has a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science with an Equine Science minor. She has owned horses and worked in the horse industry most of her adult life and loves training horses, some of which have gone on to win barrels and poles at the Arkansas State Horse Show. Christy says she can’t imagine a life without horses. She also writes a blog for an Instagram account, @eqstyletheory