Stomach ulcers are common in humans but many of you may not realize they are also common in horses. Most ulcers in horses are man made as they are uncommon in wild horses and horses that graze on large amounts of acreage. Scientific studies have indicated that 90% of racehorses are affected with stomach ulcers and this is not surprising considering their stress and training schedule. However, even 60% of show horses are also affected, so all horses that are used in performance or showing are susceptible. Ulcers are mostly man made and this is due to the fact that placing horses in stalls increases the chance of ulcers. Also, feeding horses once or twice daily increases the chance of ulcers versus leaving the horses out on pasture to graze naturally. Their stomachs produce acid 24 hours a day and if they don’t have food in the stomach by grazing continually, they are more likely to develop ulcers. Stress is another cause of ulcers such as hauling to shows and training for events.
A tip to help prevent stomach ulceration is to allow your horse free access to grass or hay at all times. For horses that have to be stalled, be sure they are able to see other horses and have objects in the stall to keep them occupied such as a ball or other object. There are many medications to decrease ulcers in horses but only a few have scientific proof of being effective. A product called GastroGard is approved to treat and prevent ulcers in horses. There are many other products advertised in horse magazines but most of these products have no scientific proof that they are effective. Offering free access to feed and limiting stress are the most effective preventions.