Ulcers in Reining Horses

Ulcers are a problem in many of today's performance horses.

From our partners at Merial

In gastroscopy events at veterinary clinics and university campuses across the country, 76 percent of reining horses were identified with stomach ulcers.

"At these events, veterinarians evaluated the horses' stomachs using gastroscopy, which is the only definitive way to determine if a horse has ulcers," says Dr. April Knudson of Merial. "I traveled the country to attend many of these events myself, and one thing is for certain -- stomach ulcers can occur in horses of all breeds and disciplines."

Throughout the year, 658 horses in 25 states participated in events. Overall, 60 percent -- 397 horses -- had some ulceration, as identified by gastroscopy. Horses of varying breeds, ages and previous ulcer histories were found to have stomach ulcers, including:

    • Horses from 1 to 41 years of age
    • Breeds from ponies to Percherons
    • Horses kept in box stalls and in pastures
    • Those in training and horses rarely ridden

"These results demonstrate how stomach ulcers can occur in any horse," Dr. Knudson says. "Even the best-cared-for horses can suffer from this condition. For horses that compete, like reining horses, stomach ulcers could keep them from performing at their best, too."

There are many triggers for stomach ulcer development, and stress is an important contributing factor. Horses are especially sensitive and may experience stress when exposed to situations you would think of as normal, including: competition, training, travel, lay-up due to sickness or injury, shows or events, limited turnout or grazing, or trailering. Ulcers can develop quickly, too. One study showed that horses can develop stomach ulcers in as little as five days.

Before stressful events, a once-daily dose of Ulcergard (omeprazole) has been proven effective in preventing stomach ulcers over both short and long periods of time. Ulcergard is the only FDA-approved proven preventive for stomach ulcers.

"For horse owners, it's important to think about preventing stomach ulcers before an unexpected trip to the veterinarian is required," Dr. Knudson says. "If horses have been exposed to stressful situations and are at risk for stomach ulcers, a veterinarian may be able to provide a presumptive diagnosis without gastroscopy."

If a veterinarian diagnoses stomach ulcers, one tube of Gastrogard (omeprazole) given once per day for 28 days effectively heals or reduces the severity of gastric ulcers. Gastrogard is the only product that is FDA-approved to treat and heal stomach ulcers.

"With proven products like these, there is no reason that a horse needs to suffer from stomach ulcers," Dr. Knudson says. "Ask your veterinarian if your horse is at risk for stomach ulcers or if there are scoping events in the area."

If you're interested in learning more about gastric ulcers and other health risks that your horse faces, check out our popular "Your Horse's Health" DVDs. They're packed full of useful information that every horse owner should have.

Another great resource for horse health tips is America's Horse TV. The site features a multitude of channels on varying topics, including one specifically for horse health. It's totally FREE, so you've got nothing to lose; only knowledge to gain!