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.