One of the common indicators of stress in horses is gastric ulcers. It is well known that circumstances associated with transporting horses to events and shows causes great stress to the horse. This is something you need to consider when caring for your horse who spends a lot of time in and out of horse trailers.
Transportation of animals is a concept created by humans that has added stress to a horses life. We have tried to make them adapt to what is considered natural concept in the human lifestyle.
The best solution and most natural way to prevent stress induced illnesses in horses such as gastric ulcers is to keep the horse in it’s most natural environment. Out in the fields and pastures is the place where horses are most at home and therefore relaxed and unstressed. However we know this option is not sustainable especially if you have a performance horse. Performance horses are not usually turned out in pastures for most part of the day. If you own a horse that is stabled most of the time and also is required to travel to events and shows extra measures are required to ensure good health for your performance horse.
What Happens When Your Horse is Always On-the-Go
For the horse that spends more time travelling than grazing leisurely in the pasture with other horses there is greater risk of excessive stress and consequently developing gastric ulcers. When you think about it, transportation for a large animal being taken to a new place or different environment and sometimes the journey can take a long time must cause the animal a great deal of stress. The other factors of a horse on the go also means the horse is out of it’s comfort zone. The horse is away from the familiar smells of his barn and stable mates. Different sights and sounds especially at events where there are crowds of people making loud noises such as cheering other horses at the even. There are some horses who can easily adapt the lifestyle of constant transport but others cannot and it becomes too stressful for them.
Ulcers and what can cause them
EGUS or equine gastric ulcer syndrome has become greatly prevalent among horses in the modern times. It is well documented that high performance horses such as race horses and eventing horses will develop gastric ulcers during their careers. Even non performance horses are suseptible to gastric ulcers. Unlike humans, the majority of ulcers are caused by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori, EGUS is not associated with the bacterium. If these gastric ulcers in horses are not caused by bacteria, then how do they develop?
The process of transporting horses can be very stressful for the animal. When the horse is in a stressed state this then contributes the increased release of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is released in response to fear or stress by the adrenal glands as part of the fight-or-flight mechanism.mechanism. Cortisol inhibits the production of prostaglandins, which are normally present in the stomach and the function is to protect the gastric lining. If the prostaglandin production is inhibited, the stomach’s defense layer is weakened, making it more vulnerable to the normally acidic environment of the stomach.
Signs to Watch Out For
Your horse could have ulcers if he displays the following:
- Attitude change
- Poor appetite
- Poor coat
- Weight loss
- Decreased performance
- Decline in body condition
- Dull or uninterested
- Adverse to touch in particular areas of the body
Tips for safe and stress free transportation
It is important to try and reduce the risk of adding stress to your horse’s lifestyle or possibly aggravating an existing gastric ulcer condition. It is a challenging exercise at the best of times to transport a large animal like a horse. From the first step of loading a horse in to a trailer can create the horse to be nervous and unsure of what is happening. A good tip would be to train your horse in getting in and out of the trailer in a quiet and calm manner. Ensure the trailer is adequate in size for your horse. The trailer should have enough room so that he can raise and lower his head without restraint.
Planning your trip taking care to plotting the best routes and anticipating weather conditions will go to reducing the stress associated with transportation of your horse. If it is a long journey to your destination stopping for a rest is also important. Remember do not leave your horse in the trailer especially if the weather outside is really hot. This can cause dehydration and even heat stroke. Make sure there is proper ventilation inside the trailer or van and most importantly, bring plenty of water (better if from your farm) for your horse to drink. Some horses may not drink water taken from different places.
The aforementioned tips are just some of the many ways that you can help reduce travel stress for your horse to allow it to arrive at its destination in great shape. After all, a horse that travels well is more likely to perform well in the chosen discipline of your horse. The utmost care should be given all throughout the journey to ensure that your horse can still deliver the performance expected of him.
My Horse Has Ulcers . . . What Now?
Equine omeprazole can be used to prevent gastric ulcers especially in horses that are constantly exposed to stress, i.e. performance horses that are transported during events. Omeprazole, a long-trusted treatment can also be used to address existing ulcers.
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