Staying on Guard

Good horse health care is part of the equation for racetrack success.

From AQHA Corporate Boehringer Ingelheim

If you horse is acting different check for ulcers today. Journal photo.

For American Quarter Horse breeder, racing enthusiast and barrel racer Christina Zehender of Fort Jennings, Ohio, the proof is in the racetrack payout. But the cash might have remained on the table had it not been for her willingness to give a promising 4-year-old one more chance at good horse health.

Christina’s gelding, Quickflyin Elin, bolted out of the gate as a 2-year-old, finishing his inaugural year on the track with a win by more than two lengths at the Buckeye Futurity. But as a 3-year-old, “Eli” didn’t seem to be quite as good.

“He had one win, but didn’t step up in the derby competition like we expected,” Christina recalls. “After placing seventh, my trainer said he would never be competitive in Indiana, where we race, so we brought Eli home to think about other potential careers.”

Christina wasn’t ready to give up on Eli’s career as a racehorse and thought the gelding might be suffering from ulcers, which could have been hindering his performance. Although her veterinarian didn’t have an endoscope, he concurred with Christina’s thinking, making a presumptive diagnosis.

“Eli is very nervous and doesn’t like change,” she says. “When he came home from the track, he wasn’t eating well and was depressed.” Eli was given a regimen of Gastrogard (omeprazole), the only FDA-approved treatment for equine gastric ulcers, and returned to his normal self.

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The following spring, not yet ready to throw in the towel on what had been a promising career on the track, Christina put Eli on Ulcergard (omeprazole) as a preventive measure to combat the possible onset of stress-related stomach ulcers.

“He went back into training and besides using Ulcergard, I closely monitored his attitude and eating,” Christina says. “Eli won his first race at Beulah Park that spring, and although he had some bad luck, he eventually hit his stride in Indiana, where he won three open allowance races at Indiana Downs, setting a track record.”

Christina believes the regimen of Ulcergard contributed to the gelding’s ability to stay healthy enough to compete at a high level. Although her horses all have “normal horse lives” at home, enjoying turnout and socialization, track life introduces an entirely different routine.

“The biggest thing we have found is when they are away at the track for training, they encounter a great amount of stress, and we have seen how that stress can decrease their ability to reach peak performance,” she says. “The time in the stall, the workout schedule and hauling take a toll on them.”

Christina’s experience with Ulcergard didn’t start with Eli but with a barrel-racing mare several years before. Following a bout with Potomac Horse Fever, from which she had recovered, the mare was still off feed and depressed. At the recommendation of her veterinarian, who made a presumptive diagnosis of stomach ulcers, Christina started the mare on a treatment of Gastrogard. According to her, the mare’s condition improved quickly.

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Given Christina’s experiences with Gastrogard and Ulcergard, she was eager to lend her voice and face to the product as a spokeswoman for Ulcergard. She entered the Merial-sponsored Stay on Guard contest, was selected as a finalist by a panel of judges and then voted on by the general public in an online competition. Christina’s success story spoke to evaluators and fellow horse enthusiasts, resulting in her being named the Stay on Guard spokeswoman in the racehorse category.

“The number of entries we received sharing first-hand accounts of how well this product worked for horse owners is gratifying,” says Dr. Steve Lerner, Merial’s large-animal head of marketing. “I think many other horse owners will be able to identify with the positive experiences Christina had with her horses and recognize the potential the product has to help them as well.”

Ulcer Prevention and Treatment

When acid levels rise and cause stomach ulcers, the pain can cause your horse not to perform at their best.

The active ingredient in ULCERGARD® (omeprazole) and GASTROGARD® (omeprazole) inhibits acid production at the source – the proton pumps in the glandular mucosa.4,5 Only ULCERGARD and GASTROGARD have a patented formulation that protects the omeprazole from being broken down by acid. This ensures that the omeprazole makes it through the acid of the stomach into the intestines where it is absorbed into the bloodstream and then makes its way back to the stomach to work effectively.

As a result of the way performance horses are commonly fed, and in addition to the stress of training, showing and traveling, stomach or gastric ulcers are more common than you might think, with two out of three competitive horses affected.5,6 Help protect against ulcers during times of stress with the proven power of FDA-approved ULCERGARD.5 When ulcers are present, treat with GASTROGARD, the only FDA-approved equine gastric ulcer treatment.4 Feeding a performance horse isn’t without challenges. Ask your veterinarian or equine nutritionist for feeding recommendations to help keep acid levels under control.


ULCERGARD can be used in horses that weigh at least 600 pounds. Safety in pregnant mares has not been determined. Caution: Safety of GASTROGARD in pregnant or lactating mares has not been determined. Merial is now part of Boehringer Ingelheim. ®GASTROGARD and ULCERGARD are registered trademarks of Merial. ©2017 Merial, Inc., Duluth, GA. All rights reserved. EQUIUGD1709 (7/17)

1Williams C. The Basics of Equine Nutrition. Available at: Accessed April 3, 2017.

2Kitchen DL, Merritt AM, Burrow JA. Histamine-induced gastric acid secretion in horses. Am J Vet Res. 1998;59(10):1303-1306.

3Murray MJ. Overview of equine gastroduodenal ulceration. AAEP Proceedings. 1997;43:382-387.

4GASTROGARD product label.

5ULCERGARD product label.

6Mitchell RD. Prevalence of gastric ulcers in hunter/jumper and dressage horses evaluated for poor performance. Association for Equine Sports Medicine, September 2001.

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