Top ten tips for keeping ulcers at bay with Dr. Ben Sykes

World-leading EGUS expert Dr Ben Sykes offers these top ten tips to help your horse live as ulcer-free as possible.

 

  1. Hay

Hay is at the top of the list for preventing squamous disease. Ideally, horses should have unrestricted access to hay, but if that’s not possible, feeding hay three times a day or more can reduce the risk of squamous ulcers by up to 20 times. Horses should eat at least 2% of their body weight in hay daily, but they might consume 3% or more with free access.

 

  1. Non-structural Carbs

Like red wine, moderate non-structural carbs can be beneficial, but excess can be harmful. Most sports horses consume carbs at levels low enough not to increase ulcer risk significantly. Other horse types, like racehorses and endurance horses, tend to eat higher-carb diets.  To minimize the impact of carbs in these situations, feed more smaller meals per day rather than a few larger ones.

 

  1. Exercise

Exercise, especially trotting or above, and transportation can cause acid to splash into the stomach’s squamous region. Focus on quality of exercise over quantity, and exercise when your horse has just eaten hay, ideally lucerne. This will create a protective fibre mat in the stomach.

 

  1. Rest Days

Rest days are crucial for stomach health, particularly glandular disease (EGGD). Horses exercising five to seven days a week are more likely to develop ulcers than those with fewer exercise days. Aim for 2-3 rest days per week.

 

  1. Regular Routine

Horses thrive on consistency. A well-established routine with consistent handlers and riders reduces stress, lowering the risk of glandular disease.

 

  1. Social Interaction

Horses with friends have a lower risk of squamous disease. Social interactions like playing, mutual grooming, and grazing together help horses feel safe and relaxed and will increase time spent eating.

 

  1. Music

Certain types of music can help horses feel safe and relaxed, leading to more time spent eating and lower levels of cortisol, the body’s stress hormone.  Conversely, racing radio increases the risk of squamous disease.

 

  1. Positive Associations

Pre-exercise hay feeding creates a fibre mat that helps prevent ulcers and can make the horse associate getting ready for work with something positive. Offering treats during grooming and tacking up can also help reduce learnt stress-related behaviours.

 

  1. Massage

Massage can positively influence stress-related behaviours, especially anticipatory pain-based behaviours.  Massage has also been shown to reduce cortisol levels.

 

  1. Supplements

Supplements can play an important role in bridging gaps in management or supplementing management when the risk factors overwhelm the horse’s defensive mechanisms. Be sure to select supplements backed by peer-reviewed research and suitable for your horse’s specific needs. For horses at high risk, or horses with a history of glandular disease, GastroAID Recovery is recommended during competition season.

 

 

Each horse is unique, so ulcer prevention and recovery strategies should be tailored individually. Work closely with your vet and nutritionist to develop the best plan for your horse’s health. These tips and professional guidance can help keep your horse’s stomach healthy and ulcer-free.

Want to find out more? Get in touch on 1800 KELATO or email technical@kelato.com.au.

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