Ulcers are a common problem especially for horses with a high workload, although any horse can suffer from them. Ulcers are defined as a thinning of the lining of the horse’s digestive tract. Ulcers are caused when horses have an empty stomach or excess stomach acids due to stress. During movement (most commonly exercise) stomach acid splashes, damaging and thinning parts of the stomach lining.

Initial Symptoms

  • Behavioural changes - averseness to be tacked up, especially when doing the girth, and reluctance to work, often unwilling to move forwards.
  • Loss of weight - unexplained weight loss can be due to ulcers.
  • Reduced appetite - unexpected loss of appetite can be a sign of ulcers.
  • Becoming stressed - increased stress, anxiousness, or restless behaviour can often be linked to ulcers.

Top tips

  • Prevention - prevention measures such as feeding little and often (feeding too much hard feed to your horse in one go can cause ulcers) and feeding a handful of chaff or alfalfa before exercise are highly effective at preventing ulcers.
  • Digestive help - ensuring a digestive supplement is included in your horse’s feed can help prevent ulcers. All our balancers contain a digestive supplement.
  • Increased turnout - access to grass may help prevent ulcers. If unable to provide increased turnout, ensure they have access to a continuous supply of forage when stabled.
  • Temporarily reduced workload - whilst a horse is suffering from ulcers reducing their workload to just walk exercises whilst they recover is recommended.
  • If you suspect your horse suffers from ulcers, contact your veterinary surgeon for diagnostic workup and treatment, there is little chance ulcers will heal on their own without medical or managerial intervention.