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I can't seem to get control of my horse's ulcers! Help!

I am looking for advice on managing my ulcer prone 8yo OTTB mare. I thought I had things figured out but it seems that I don’t. I’ll give you a run-down of her history and current situation and I’d really like to get feedback on what is good and what I should change.

I bought her April 2011 (4 months retraining from the track). She was going well (read sane), turned out 24/7 on good pasture, no grain, but very underweight. I got her home, she went on 24/7 turnout on poor pasture with good round bales and we started feeding her Blue Seal Sentinel, slowly moving up to 8lb a day. After about a month, she started to become incredibly spooky and would “park-out” after a meal. Lots of stomach sounds, but she was obviously uncomfortable. Took to laying down for about 5 mins, no rolling, and would stand up and stretch her back legs out behind her. This resolved after about 45 min each night. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Through all of this, she wasn’t gaining an ounce of weight with all the feed.

I got the vet out to look at some mild back soreness for me, and she recommended that we increase her feed to 12lb of the Blue Seal Sentinel a day. We did, still no weight gain, stayed super spooky, and got to a point where she stopped tying/freaked out in cross-ties.

I moved her to a different barn to get close to some better trainers. She went out 1/2 day on very nice pasture, stalled 1/2 day. She stayed on the 12lb Sentinel. One look from my new trainer and she said “this horse has ulcers”. I immediately put her on a 28 day course of Gastrogard. Her mood started to improve, her coat improved, and she picked up weight quicker than I could believe. This was obviously an ulcer problem. I also started pulling her off the massive amounts of grain and substituting rice bran pellets. She was on about 4lb Sentinel and 3lb rice bran a day. After the 28 days of Gastrogard, I got her scoped to see where we were. She still had ulcers, but they were grade 1 and there were not that many. But the reset of the stomach looked like it had just healed over. The vet recommended a tapering dose of Gastrogard for 3 more weeks.

After this, she was still really high strung, nervous, and spooky. I decided to get her scoped again about a month later. More ulcers, but not super active. Based on her history, the vet recommended that I treat her as “gluten intolerant” because he had success in eliminating grain from other horses’ diets in the past. He recommended a PSSM diet. I switched her over to 8lb alfalfa pellets a day and slowly pulled her up to 1/2 cup of flaxseed oil 2x day. She didn’t eat it super well (she’s picky, won’t eat things like apples…), but gained more weight. With lots of patience and slow, gentle work building from the ground up, I finally got her behaving like an almost normal horse. She’s was still spooky but it was easier to deal with and she started actually working under saddle! We had a great run from about March to May this spring. Then she started coming off her food and her performance started to slowly decline. It didn’t occur to me for about 3 weeks that her ulcers may have come back (I suspect stress induced - more trailering, increased training, ect). Once I did, I put her on about 10 days of a full tube of Gastrogard and then a tapering dose for about the next month and a half. I also started her on SmartGut. She started eating again, but then she contracted Lyme’s (ugg…) and stuck her leg through the fence at the vet’s while she was being treated (double ugg…).

She’s on stall rest at the moment for all this, but I keep a slow feeding hay net in front of her at all times. I will resume 1/2 day turn-out on good pasture, tho we’ll be mixing up her pasture mates (she get VERY attached to which ever horse is closest to her. I have a real problem with separating her or riding alone). She is eating 3.5lb alfalfa pellets 2x day with her supplements (Quiessence, SmartGut, Natural Vitamin E, and SmartVite Grass Performance Pellets). I think I am going to buy some more Gastrogard for her while she’s on stall rest, unless there is a cheaper product I can try. I’ve just been wary because the Gastrogard has worked so well for me in the past and I’ve heard such mixed reviews about other products. Other things I am interested in learning more about are Succeed and hindgut ulcers.

With all the ulcer issues (with various traumatic injuries mixed in), she has only been really rideable for about 3 months of the 1.5 years I’ve owned her… She’s been incredibly expensive to maintain and for the most part I haven’t enjoyed my time with her at all. I’m considering selling her for something more suitable, but that’s a different story and I need to get her healthy again regardless.

So, please critique my management plan for her. What am I doing right or wrong? Is there feed I could try? Has anyone fed a PSSM (“gluten free”) diet before? Anyway what I’m feeding her is keeping her energy and spookiness up? Other/better ways to treat/prevent ulcers? Other management techniques? Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

What kind of hay?

I’d try a dozen Tums in her food each day for a week or two and see if that helps at all.

A dozen tums in her food is like throwing money out your window while you drive down the road. Antacids like Tums are only active for a very short term.

Get Ranitidine, much cheaper than GastroGard, and if she is a “standard” horse size, like 1000 lbs, dose 3 grams (3000 mg) twice daily. I would do this for at least a month and see where you are.

I would also mention that stall bound horses can tend to develop ulcers quicker than horses that get turnout, socialization, etc. So, when you can resume turnout, I would give her as much as you can.

Free choice forage
low grain/no grain diet (if possible)

A friend’s gelding always seemed like a hard keeper. Then over time, he started getting ulcery. She cut out all “grains” and went with a ration balancer (Poulin’s MVP) and alfalfa pellets, and free choice hay in small hole hay nets, and started the horse in ranitidine, 3000 mg twice daily, and within a month, he has put on a nice amount of weight and his symptoms have almost disappeared.

You said you’re feeding her Blue Seal Sentinel but the Sentinel line has mutliple types…Performance LS, Senior, etc. Which one are you feeding?

Tums can help with things that might irritate the horse’s stomach, like salt. Certainly helped my horse’s symptoms when we had to give him a lot of salt recently to get him sweating again, and a lot of endurance riders use a lot of Tums with their electrolytes to make dosing easier on the stomach.

Won’t hurt and who knows, it might help.

www.abler.com omeprzole granules are much cheaper than gastrogard and has worked well for many of us on this forum.

You said you’re feeding her Blue Seal Sentinel but the Sentinel line has mutliple types…Performance LS, Senior, etc. Which one are you feeding?[/QUOTE]

Sorry about that, Sentinel Performance. She is no longer on it, but it was promoted as “low starch” and that’s why she was on it before.

What kind of hay?[/QUOTE]

Orchard grass/grass hay mix. Our BO grows his own hay, but I have not really been impressed with the quality of hay so far this year…

Being in a stall and the antibiotics are both not great for gut health. I think you were right to lose the grain and move to alfalfa.

Don’t forget to think about hind-gut ulcers as well.
What happens upstream happens downsteam.
The treatment for the two is different. Gastric ulcer treatment can worsen hind-gut issues. Omeprazole and ranitidine can exacerbate hind-gut ulcers.
And so, when you’re attempting to treat both it gets hard, but it’s do-able.

Ditto the abler

Orchard grass/grass hay mix. Our BO grows his own hay, but I have not really been impressed with the quality of hay so far this year…[/QUOTE]

Also, more outside the better. (sorry -didn’t mean to state the obvious)
Alfalfa hay always helped my guy, i even added alfalfa pellets to his diet.

He was always happiest when on grass, and i was lucky my barn was such that even when"in", he could walk in and out of his stall into his paadock -

Hope it works out!

I’m one of those who believes in going straight to the point - and that is Gastroguard, or “pop rocks” as the ones from offshore are called on COTH. There are multiple threads on this - the non brand-name for GG. But until they can come, I’d buy ( and cringe at the price) the GG to get started.

I know there are lots of substitutes, but until the real problem is resolved I’d personally get the big guns out, instead of spending the time and $$, only to probably have to go to GG in the end.

I had a foal with ulcers and the relief when he was feeling better was so huge
I didn’t mind the expense.

For what it’s worth, my ottb gets really hot on alfalfa. Tested this a number of times and its pretty evident.

I have a mare that’s very much like yours. I’ve had her for almost 3 years now and have spent many, many hours researching and learning - as well as thousands of dollars to figure out what was wrong and treat her. For my mare one very key thing in addition to a modified feed plan is to keep her on a very strict schedule with feeding times always at the same time. I also had to eliminate all grains and she cannot have any soy. I feed her T&A or O&A hay in a slow feed hay bag so she always has something to eat when she’s in or she’s on pasture when out. Soy tends to be a big problem for many horses so I would check that any vitamin supplements you’re feeding do not contain any soy or by products. A course of pop rocks works for my horse and I keep some on hand to use as a preventative when trailering etc. I also treat her for hind gut ulcers which are very often overlooked and often exist when stomach ulcers are present. Oat flour is very helpful for this. You can easily make it yourself at home by grinding oat meal in a blender to a fine powder. Give 1/2 cup per feeding. This is thought to coat the hind gut and has been very effective for several horses I know in addition to mine.

My horse’s diet consists of soaked beet pulp and alfalfa hay cubes. This offers more long fiber in the diet than the pellets and because it’s soaked helps to prevent impaction - uclery horses tend to decrease water intake as well as stop eating because their stomach are hurting. I also feed a magnesium supplement because the use of omeprazole depletes magnesium - most horses are deficient in magnesium also. If I stick religiously to this protocol I do not need the omeprazole after the 30 day treatment and she does well (with the exception of using it as a preventative during times of stress). I always feed the oat flour, magnesium, and a comprehensive vitamin/mineral/intestinal support product made by HorseTech called High Point. The High Point fills in any gaps nutritionally that the hay/forage diet may be lacking and also has beneficial ingredients to support healthy gut/intestinal environment and function.

I understand your pain and frustration :frowning: It’s so hard to see your horse suffering and it can sometimes take forever to figure out what’s wrong. It sounds like you’re on the right path and with some trial and error you will find what works best for you horse.

It’s hard when something that is recommended for one problem exacerbates another.

  1. Our horses automatically go on omeprazole when they get antibiotics for more than 1 day. Antibiotics are bad for the stomach.

  2. Our horses automatically go on omeprazole when they are on stall rest for anything more than the 2 days that we do for hock injections.

  3. I’ve known horses that got nutty on alfalfa, soy and corn. One of the three tested positive for an allergy. The other two didn’t - but multiple owners/trainers swore horse was unrideable when fed the problem product.

Under the theory that horse likely has ulcers again from antibiotics and stall rest, I’d do 30 days of Gastroguard/generic omeprazole+buffer/blue pop rocks. Make sure you taper the dose at the end for a few more weeks. I’d also talk to the vet about doing sucralfate for hind gut ulcers.

While that is happening, I’d try a different diet. Not saying the first option is necessarily going to work, but my first attempt would be the recommended daily amount (per the bag) of a high fat, lowish starch feed. I’d probably be looking for something like a beet pulp based senior feed - with pre/probiotics in it if possible. I’d supplement that with rice bran and oil if necessary. No alfalfa. I’d also drop the SmartVite if you are feeding the RDA of a fortified grain.

You are doing the right thing by using GastroGard. You have to cure the ulcers (which is what GastroGard does) and not just relieve the symptoms (which is what Ranitadine, Tums, etc. does).

When one of my OTTBs had ulcers I treated him with the full round of GastroGard and when that was finished my vet had me to put him on Neigh Lox for maintenance. I also give him 1 cup of cold pressed Aloe Vera juice per day (recommended by many track people).

This routine has been working beautifully for us for several years now. My horse has never had any recurrence of uclers so the cost of the Neigh Lox is totally worth it to me (and my horse).

Maybe after your GastroGard treatment you might want to try the Neigh Lox.


I don’t know if I’d have tried it if my vet hadn’t prescribed it, but I am so glad that he did.

Best of luck with your mare. I hope you find the solution to keeping her happy and healthy. Ulcers are no fun at all.

You are doing the right thing by using GastroGard. You have to cure the ulcers (which is what GastroGard does) and not just relieve the symptoms (which is what Ranitadine, Tums, etc. does).[/QUOTE]

That is true re: Tums, Neigh-Lox, etc. However, Ranitidine does cure ulcers. The problem is that it needs to be dosed every 8 hours, not once a day like omeprazole. It also, per my vet, can take longer to heal them. However, it functioned fine for many, many years before omeprazole came around.

I recommend U7 from Finish Line after you finish the Ulcer treatment protocol. It’s considerably cheaper than most of the stomach remedies, and is a stomach protector as well as an acid buffer. It’s mostly herbal with licorice and slippery elm and other such goodies. Comes in both a powder and a liquid.

I found U7 to be practically miraculous when my horse was suffering and very erratic during training. One week on the loading dose, and horse was reformed camper. Then I received my pop rocks order, started the treatment dose and stopped the U7 until that is finished, he’s weaned off the high dose of omeprazole, and he’s back in work.

My plan is to use the pop rocks preventative dose (1 sachet a day) with the evening feed, once weaning down from the treatment dose is finished; and one or two ounces of U7 every morning that horse is going to be working. My guy is very ulcer prone and seems to internalize stress.

As others have said - Soy, Corn, Oats and Alfalfa can all make horses that have a food sensitivity hot. Also, fat= energy. Sounds like the diet is pretty ‘high octane’.
Standlee makes Timothy cubes and pellets, I have used them for hot horses.
a ration balancer needs to be added, and there was a thread that mentioned one without Soy.
Also, The horse sounds quite insecure, and easily stressed. Perhaps giving omeprazol one week per month, after ulcers have healed might help.
One last thought, is she ‘hormonal’? We had a mare that was in a constant tizzy
and could not settle down. It turned out she had an infection. She was flushed with Gentomycin, and had Caslick surgery, and was a diferrent horse.