“Fishing” for Better Horse Health

A South Dakota roper was surprised to learn that treating ulcers had a big impact on his horse.

From AQHA Corporate Partner Merial

AQHA member Kirk Ford of Huron, South Dakota, nearly sold Wimpys Driftbar, the American Quarter Horse both he and his son had used for many years of amateur roping.

Although a seasoned working horse, with experience carrying both headers and heelers, “Fish” had a habit of being quite the gentleman at home – and quite the opposite at competitions. It got to be difficult for Kirk to focus on roping while trying to manage his fractious horse in the box. Consequently, very little money was being won. And Kirk was missing out on the pleasure that comes from making a really good run when horse and rider are working as one.

“Fish was really good at home practicing, and occasionally when he was firing on all cylinders, he was amazing at a rodeo. But he became almost uncontrollable on the road,” Kirk says. “He wouldn’t go in the box, didn’t want to face the cattle, and he was really antsy and nervous. It became very difficult to compete with him.”

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In 2009, Kirk was ready to write Fish off as a nice “stay-at-home” kind of horse – and maybe even put the unpredictable gelding up for sale. Before he had the chance, fate intervened. Kirk had the opportunity to learn about equine stomach ulcers, a condition impacting two out of three non-racing performance horses.1 He also learned that poor performance is one of the primary clinical signs of ulcers.2

Horses with stomach ulcers can have a wide range of clinical signs,” says Dr. Megan Green, manager of Large Animal Veterinary Services for Merial. Dr. Green explains that some horses do not display any clinical signs, but others might present one or any number of the following signs, and with varying degrees:

    • Altered eating and drinking behavior
    • Dull hair coat
    • Weight loss

“It is very common to see ulcers in competing horses, because many of the activities associated with competing -- training, traveling, stall confinement and changes in environment can cause stress, which can lead to ulcer development,”2 Dr. Green says.

In the case of Fish, Kirk consulted his veterinarian, who, based on a presumptive diagnosis, recommended the use of Gastrogard® (omeprazole) to treat what he believed to be the gelding’s stomach ulcers. He also recommended Ford use Ulcergard® (omeprazole) before, during and for a few days after all roping competitions to prevent the possible reoccurrence of ulcers.

Once Kirk treated Fish and took him back out on the regional roping circuit using Ulcergard as recommended, he couldn’t believe the difference.

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“He was truly a different horse,” Kirk says. “Other competitors didn’t even think I was riding the same horse.”

Fish and Kirk made a good showing during the 2013 season, traveling more than 10,000 miles to attend 30 rodeos, winning enough to earn a place competing at the South Dakota Rodeo Association Finals. “This time, Fish was the same horse on the road as he was at home,” Kirk says. They culminated their 2013 season with “Horse of the Year” recognition for Fish on the SDRA circuit.

“Not all horses will have such a dramatic change in their behavior as Fish did,” says Dr. Green. “There may have been other variables impacting his behavior. But making Ulcergard a regular part of his competitive plan seemed to help Kirk and Fish have more success in senior men’s breakaway roping in 2013.”

For more information about Ulcergard, visit For more information about Gastrogard, visit


Ulcergard (omeprazole) can be used in horses that weigh at least 600 pounds. The effectiveness of Ulcergard in the prevention of gastric ulcers in foals and weanlings has not been evaluated. Ulcergard may be used safely in breeding stallions. Safety in pregnant mares has not been determined.

Gastrogard: Safety of Gastrogard in pregnant or lactating mares has not been determined.

®Ulcergard and Gastrogard are registered trademarks of Merial. ©2014 Merial Limited, Duluth, GA. All rights reserved. EQUIUGD1413 (03/14)

1Mitchell RD. Prevalence of gastric ulcers in hunter/jumper and dressage horses evaluated for poor performance. Association for Equine Sports Medicine, September 2001.
2Ulcergard product label.