All About Ulcers in Horses

Did you know that ulcers can affect up to two-thirds of all performance horses? Gastric ulcers, technically known as Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS), are very common in horses of any age. This is because horses have stomachs that are much smaller than other species’ stomachs and generally cannot handle large amounts of food. Horses are, by nature, continuous grazers who eat coarse grasses 16 to 18 hours a day in natural settings. They are meant to graze and eat small portions more frequently. But for many horses, especially performance horses, this is uncommon. Many performance horses have significantly restricted grazing access and often require additional caloric supplementation to meet their energy requirements. These types of eating habits can lead to ulcer development.

Unfortunately, the signs of ulcers in horses can be subtle: a slight attitude change, decrease in performance, or general reluctance to train may be the only signs you see. Teeth grinding, poor appetite and lying down more often are also symptoms of ulcers that some horses may show. The only way to know for sure if your horse is suffering from a gastric ulcer is to have a vet perform a gastroscopy.

photo credit: ReadySupp

When it comes to keeping your horse healthy, ulcer free, and at the top of his game, prevention is key. The most effective strategy that vets have found to prevent ulcers is a combination of feeding, time management, and water. In order to decrease ulcers, many veterinarians recommend allowing free access or long periods of grazing, constant hay access when they are confined for more than six hours, feeding frequent small grain concentrate meals, replacing calories from carbohydrates with fats and fiber-based diets, offering alfalfa hay/cubes/pellets, and providing constant access to fresh, clean water.

There are also other factors to consider when trying to prevent ulcers. These include minimizing stress relative to housing, common routines and transportation. Horses that are permanently housed on pasture with light exercise are six times less likely to get ulcers than stalled, moderately exercising horses. Horses with constant access to forage are four time less likely to get ulcers. Research has also shown that installing mirror in stalls and trailers can help reduce blood cortisol, a stress hormone, thus potentially lowering ulcers.

If you think your horse may have an ulcer, have the vet evaluate the symptoms and discuss next courses of action. Typically, the two medications that work well to treat ulcers are Gastrogard and Ulcergard. These treatments are not inexpensive but have been proven to have good results and treating ulcers in horses.

Use Stable Secretary to track your horse’s activities, behaviors, and health events. Having quick and easy access to a complete overview of health history can help you and your vet determine how best to treat any condition your horse might develop.


Rider of the Month: Sarah Watson

From her start on the East Coast to her successful professional career at the base of the Rocky Mountains, Sarah Watson is no stranger to the stress of running a show barn. One of Stable Secretary’s first users, Sarah has experienced first hand how helpful Stable Secretary can be. We sat down with her to discuss her background in the horse industry and to find out how she implements Stable Secretary in her business.


Q: Tell us about you and your barn!
A: I started my professional career in Greenwich CT at Country Lane Farm, a really great family business that had loads of ponies and kids. There, I started to learn the ins and outs of running a business but never thought I would have one of my own. I went from there to Washington DC where I worked at Meadowbrook Stables with Miranda Scott teaching lessons and attending shows around the DC area. Also while in DC I traveled into Maryland and rode for Stacy Schaeffer and Kim Stewart riding horses at home and schooling at shows for Scott Stewart. I moved to Colorado in 2008 and after being an assistant for a few more years a dear friend and mentor, Nicole Webb, encouraged me  to branch off on my own, and that is when Watson Equestrian LLC was born. I felt like I had learned what to do and what not to do from so many others that I really focus on keeping my business small so that I can give each horse and rider equal amounts of attention for the Hunter, Equitation, Jumper, and Pony rings. 

Q: What is your favorite Stable Secretary feature and why?
A: I love that I can keep track of the horses Coggins and health records with Stable Secretary. Who really looks at a Coggins that often to know when it expires?! It’s so helpful to have Stable Secretary tell me when one is going to need to be redone so it’s one less thing I have to write down and remember. 

Q: How do you use Stable Secretary on a daily basis?
A: I use Stable Secretary for the health record feature the most because it allows my brain to have a little more space! I can’t remember every date of every injection or medication given, so it is so helpful to just plug it into my app on my phone and be able to reference each horse’s records with a few finger taps. 

Q: How has Stable Secretary improved your role in managing your barn?
A: Stable Secretary has improved my role in managing my barn because it saves me time for riding and teaching by making everything so accessible. When the vet or farrier comes for a horse, I can just pull my iPad or phone out and open the app, plug in what horse had what done, and then move on with my day. Stable Secretary reminding me every Monday of what I have coming up the next 2 weeks helps me stay on top of every horse’s care just the same. 

Q: Would you recommend Stable Secretary to other trainers?
A: I would DEFINITELY recommend Stable Secretary to other professionals, and even just horse owners who like to be involved, or barn owners who manage grain etc. It’s just so easy to use and so much more convenient than just writing something down on a white board etc. Stable Secretary makes a horse trainer’s life easier, and I imagine it would make a barn manager’s a breeze! Having this information no matter my location makes running a barn full of healthy horses simple. 

Find out more about Sarah at the Watson Equestrian LLC web site or Facebook page.

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