Help Your Horse

No-one knows your horse better than you and as such he is totally reliant on you for his health, happiness and well-being through ongoing observation of his state of mind and physiology.

Sadly we’re only recently becoming aware of the prevalence of ulcers - before when we noticed something was wrong with our horse we tended to go down the route of a change of diet, supplements, re-worming and a visit from the vet.

Ulcers are slow non-healing acid burns and now that we know of the pain and discomfort our horses suffer from we can take steps to heal and prevent ulcers recurring.

Feeding

  • Frequent feeds - the stomach releases one and a half litres of gastric acid every hour, 24/7, and if the gut is empty the acid will start to burn and form ulcers. The chemical makeup of food itself, combined with saliva and with buffers such as bicarbonate released by the stomach, helps protect the stomach’s mucosal lining from potential ulcer perpetrators such as hydrochloric acid.
  • Small feeds - a portion of a large feed may pass undigested into the hindgut and encourage ulcers there
  • Feed dry- it increases the meant of mastication time, producing more saliva and breaking down the feed more
  • Plenty of roughage - takes longer to digest, the gut stays fuller longer giving the acid something to work on other than burning into the gut lining
  • Replace some hard-to-digest grain with oil - oil can make up to 10% of your horse’s feed. A recent study showed supplementing corn oil decreased gastric acid production and ulcer development
  • Turnout - grazing - trickle feeding - again, giving the acid something to work on
  • Alfalfa and other legumes may be protective by virtue of their higher calcium and protein content that act as buffers of the gastric acid
  • Starch recent studies have confirmed that diets exceeding 2 grams per kilogram of body weight of starch per day are associated with double the likelihood of ulcers. Therefore your horse’s intake should not exceed 2 grams of starch per kilogram of body weight per day or 1 gram of starch per kilogram of body weight per meal. For horses that require large amounts of grain, such as performance horse, feeding at least three meals per day at six-hour intervals or less will reduce the volume of starch per meal
  • Extend foraging time as much as possible - e.g. use haynets with small holes. For horses on box rest, transition them gradually to a forage-based diet. Use a low-starch low-sugar ration balancer to augment the protein, vitamins, and minerals provided by the forage without feeding an excessive amount of calories.
  • Sugars The stomach also houses a diverse mixture of bacterial microflora that ferment nonstructural carbohydrates (NSC) to create volatile fatty acids (VFAs). Starch- and sugar-rich diets increase VFA production in the horse’s stomach and reduce mucosal lining integrity, leaving it susceptible to gastric acids.

Regime

  • Company- your horse is a sociable, herd animal
  • Turnout - more relaxing and therefore less stressful for your horse
  • Be calm around your horse - if we’re stressed they mirror (and magnify) our stress levels!

Exercise

  • Feed a small amount of roughage before exercise to help prevent excess acid forming and splashing into the upper portion of the stomach

Observe observe observe - the longer your horse has ulcers the more he suffers, the harder it is to treat them and the longer it can take. Horse with ulcers are in pain. Horses can die from ulcers.