There’s lots more talk around Gastric Ulcers recently, with statistics showing that up to 90% of Racehorses and up to 40% of Leisure horses may be affected. With these shocking statistics, we’re looking at how we can feed horses with Ulcers and ways we can help prevent them occurring in the first place.
What are Gastric Ulcers?
Gastric Ulcers are nasty and painful ulceration’s which can develop in the horses stomach lining.
What are the Symptoms of Ulcers?
There are lots of symptoms of Ulcers and it can be hard to pin point a horse having ulcers without consulting a vet and having your horse scoped. Usually things such as loss of weight or inability to hold weight, Colic and loose droppings, and in some cases poor attitude, e.g being difficult to girth.
So what causes Gastric Ulcers?
In order to understand how Ulcers occur, we must first look at how the horses digestive system is set up to eat.
Nature designed horses to live out in vast open spaces, where they would have to forage for up to 20 miles a day in a herd to find add adequate water and food. Because of this horses are designed to ‘trickle feed’ where they eat short and small amounts of grass and food constantly. This produces saliva, which together with the feed gives the stomach something to digest. Without this, the stomach acid has nothing to work with, and thus, sits against the stomach lining and causes Ulcers.
High Speed Exercise on an empty stomach can cause a similar reaction, as the gastric content gets thrown around in the stomach. Some research suggests now that a small high fibre feed before exercise can actually benefit your horse!
Okay, so what can we do to prevent our horses getting Gastric Ulcers?
There are some vital things you can do to ensure your horse is at less risk of ulcers!
- Feed a low starch and sugar diet – this means no cereals, no molasses. Instead, look for feeds which are high in Fibre and Oil. Ensure your horse has plenty of hay at all times and it is vital that they are never left without anything to eat, if they are overweight then using Trickle feeder nets or something similar will ensure they cant gorge themselves and only take small mouth fulls at a time.
- Turn out Daily – This may be difficult for some people, but making sure your horse has at least a few ours of grazing a day will give them much more chance of not developing stomach ulcers than stabled horses. This is because they can move and graze as nature intended. Always ensure your horse has access to clean and fresh drinking water, this has also been connected to Gastric Ulcers.
- Small Feed Before Exercise – Feeding a small, high fibre feed before any long or strenuous exercise can stop the stomach acid splashing around and causing stomach ulcers developing or worsening. Alfalfa Chaff is ideal.
Blue Chip Ulsa-Cool Balancer was designed for the nutritional needs of Ulcer Prone Horses – See here for more infomation
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