Causes for ulcers in horses
Diet and feeding behavior are known to affect the occurrence of gastric ulcers. Horses on pasture have the lowest incidence of ulcers compared to those athletes that need “high-energy” concentrates (a smaller portion of their diet is hay). Thus, it is believed the increased rate of ulcers in horses is due to a combination of factors including:
- A high-concentrate diet with low-roughage intake (especially when only fed once or twice a day)
- Withholding feed during competitions and intensive exercise on an empty stomach. Exercise is shown to reduce blood flow to the stomach lining as well as increasing abdominal pressure which may cause gastric compression, in turn forcing acid contents into the proximal stomach
- Other factors which induce a stressful environment, physical stress like illness and behavioral stress such as stall confinement, long-distance transportation, unfamiliar environments
Prevention of Ulcers
- Avoid long periods without food and feed frequent small meals.
- Place feed bins on the ground to simulate the horse’s normal grazing position.
- Feed a small amount of lucerne chaff prior to work as Lucerne chaff helps in two ways by acting as a physical barrier and secondly the calcium in the Lucerne binds the acid.
- Do not exercise on an empty stomach as this allows acid to attack the stomach wall when it is empty. Feed a small amount of Lucerne chaff 30 minutes before exercise.
- Ad several low hanging hay bags, some distance apart to increase movement while eating. Horses are meant to graze and move
- Avoid physical and behavioral stress.
- Allow the horse to walk around and self-exercise and graze as if he would in the wild, this way he always has feed in his stomach.
For the holistic person several herbs have been used to aid in the treatment of symptoms of ulcers in horses. Comfrey leaf, Marshmallow Root, Liquorice, Meadowsweet and Slippery Elm have all show signs of mucilaginous properties, which aid in providing a mucous layer over the stomach lining. Chamomile for calming, fenugreek for appetite stimulation. Liver detoxing herbs will also aid.
. Also consult your veterinarian with respect to the treatment you are giving your horse as some preparations may negatively interact with other medications you may be treating your horse with.