Ulcers

I've got a mare with ulcers. If you've got a horse with ulcers, my story might help. I'm not a veterinarian, just a horse owner who reads a lot.

Popper was five yrs old in 2012, wasn't started under saddle until she was four, lives in a huge paddock with a large open stall and three buddies next to her in the same setup, all turned out together for several hours every afternoon after their workouts, and fed alfalfa (and free-feed straw to keep her munching all day). Her life was pretty good - none of the usual ulcer-inducing situations in her life. In the summer that year she got very cinchy, cranky about being touched on her cinchline, chest or belly, and lots of teeth-grinding and ear-pinning. Also, under saddle, was happy to stand still or walk, but seriously objected to being asked to trot and would not canter.

I suspected ulcers and had her endoscoped - sure enough, we found a good-sized ulcer and quit looking after finding the first one - there may well have been more, and also she may have had hindgut ulcers which can be devastating and cannot be seen with an endoscope. So I spent more than $4000 on pharmaceutical treatments - GastroGuard (omeprazole) and Sucralfate - which took a month to show any effect (surprising - she should have shown some relief within a couple of days). She finally seemed better and went through the winter with no riding and no ulcer symptoms.

Come spring I began riding her again and the ulcer symptoms - angry, teeth-grinding, ear-pinning, resistance to moving out under saddle - came roaring back. So I began researching, looking for a different way to treat her.

First, I learned more about Omeprazole, the first line of attack against ulcers. It turns off the acid pumps in the stomach, which gives the ulcers a break and a chance to heal. But it doesn't affect hindgut ulcers, and when you stop it, if you don't follow up with something else, you risk rebound effect bringing the ulcers right back. Omeprazole does not heal the ulcers - it just turns off the digestive acid pumps. It was suggested that I do GastroGuard again and follow up with something like NeighLox, which is an antacid (and will have the same rebound effect problems as far as I could tell).

The challenge was to find a way to actually heal the ulcers without turning off the digestive process. I found a terrific webpage posted by Cynthia Collins, a freestyle dressage routine designer -

http://www.lunatunesfreestyles.com/horse_ulcers.htm

about her approach to naturally healing ulcers. I cherry-picked her feed recipe and came up with this:

My Ulcer Diet

Alfalfa - normal rations
Free feed oat straw
Freely available water and loose salt

Soaked oats - 1-2 cups (soaked overnight in cold water)
Stabilized rice bran - 1-2 cups
Raw pumpkin seeds - 1/2 cup (pumpkin seeds heal whatever needs healing…)
Dried cabbage - 1/2 cup (contains glutathione, good for healing in both the main stomach and the hindgut)
Green tea powder - 2 teaspoons (contains theanine, calming)
Aloe Vera juice - 1-2 cups (general stomach soother/healer, and binds the whole mess together)
Multivitamin/mineral supplement (to supplement whatever is lacking)
Carrots - 2-3 large ones (for Vitamin A and a treat)

This isn't scientific at all, but it worked for me. I fed Popper this diet for one week, no omeprazole, no riding, and when I rode her again there was NO teeth-grinding, NO ear-pinning, NO objections to saddling or grooming; the ulcer symptoms are gone and she's a much happier, more willing horse.

I'll continue to feed her this diet to keep her tummy and hindgut healthy. I don't know which of these ingredients is doing the healing, or if there's a synergistic effect among them. Some horses, like some people, are just ulcer-prone, even under the best of circumstances, and I need to do whatever it takes to keep her healthy and happy.

About the soaked oats:
There are a variety of opinions about how to feed oats. Some say ground, some say cracked, some say any processing destroys some of the nutrients, some say whole oats don't get digested. I elected to go with soaked whole oats because I'm not interested in the energy or calories, just the stomach/hindgut soothing and healing properties. Soaking the whole oats makes the nutrients in the hulls (and the rest of the oat seed) more available/digestible, and keeps the hulls available for action in the hindgut. I don't find any oats in the manure (although I do see a few empty hulls in the manure, which tells me the hulls are making their way into the hindgut and helping soothe any ulcers there).

About dried cabbage:
It's a pain to produce, and they go through it so fast! Shred it in a food processor, then spread it on a big cookie sheet and put it in the oven (all day, all night, whatever it takes) at about 200 degrees. Or use a dehydrator - takes just as long, and most dehydrators won't hold as much as two big cookie sheets.

Update - I was able to order bulk dried cabbage at North Bay Trading Company

And I found raw pumpkin seeds in bulk at International Food Source Bulk Sales

**Update to pumpkin seeds - IFS changed their policies to require a $200 minimum order, so I got my most recent batch of pumpkin seeds from Amazon - search for " Bulk Seeds, Organic Raw Pumpkin Seeds, 27 Lbs by Bulk Seeds "

About green tea powder:
I began by opening bags of cheap green tea from the grocery store, but switched to a relatively inexpensive "macha" I can get by the pound on Amazon, and then I went to straight green tea in bulk, from Amazon - search for "Davidson's Tea Bulk, Imperial Green Tea, 16-Ounce Bag ".

Ulcers are just awful, for the horse that has them and for the owner trying to get them healed. If my experience helps anyone else, that's terrific.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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