Horse ulcers are quite common in the equine industry. It is caused by overproduction of gastric acid caused by variable factors and if left untreated, it could progress to a more complicated condition. In treating digestive ulcers in horses, it is important to manage it well to avoid recurrence.
Horses produce acid in their stomachs even if their stomachs are empty. Most of the time, the stomach of a horse is designed to remain unaffected by the acidic environment. The stomach’s top portion is more susceptible to damaging effects of the acid compared to the bottom portion, where by nature, that region in their stomach can withstand the acid secretion. When horses graze, they are actually protecting themselves from developing ulcers. Horses graze all day and the roughage they take in absorbs the acid in the stomach, keeping the acidity level inside the stomach well-controlled. On top of that, when horses eat, they produce saliva which is considered an acid-buffering agent. Therefore, when horses eat, they are keeping the acidity in the stomach at normal levels and when they don’t, the stomach acid level increases up to a more serious point where ulcers could develop.
Digestive problems may start to aggravate when you confine a horse to a stable and feed it large amount of hi-grain meals or pelleted feeds. These kinds of feeds promote the increase of gastrin levels, a hormone produced in the stomach which functions as stimulant for acid production. After consumption of these types of feeds, the horse could go on without eating and all the while, acid production continues.
Feeding practices are not the only factors that lead to ulcers in horses. In fact, horses that are put in stressful situations such as intensive training could also be at risk for ulcers. Other factors include racing, illness, drug therapy with NSAIDs, and transportation.
When your horse is dealing with gastric ulcers, it could perform poorly and even behave oddly. You can do something about that by understanding the causative factors. Since it has been known that inappropriate feeding practices can cause ulcers, you need to give your horse free access to grazing. If you know your horse is under a lot of stress, allow him to take some rest before proceeding with the training. It is just a matter of caring for your horses the right way to keep them healthy.