From Endurance to Dressage
Does My Horse Have Ulcers?
You cannot know how many times I have asked myself this question. Other than just being a ridiculously sensitive snowflake (that's the first time I've ever used that word in this context, but it's true for Izzy), there didn't seem to be a more plausible explanation for his um ... theatrics.
Never mind that Izzy demonstrates NONE of the signs commonly associated with ulcers. According to Doctors Foster and Smith, signs of gastric ulcers in adult horses include:
The big brown horse is either Mr. McDreamy or a complete jackass. In his defense, the jackassery portion of his behavior rarely crops up anymore. Not that Mr. McDreamy is a daily occurrence either, but I am seeing more and more of that horse. So when Izzy started wigging out two weeks ago, I called the chiropractor like normal. Except that didn't solve everything.
I had run out of theories. This horse lacks for absolutely nothing. He gets the best hay we can find, there's copious amounts of it, and he lives on nearly a quarter of an acre. In desperation, I started researching equine ulcers and treatment.
What I found is that there is only one FDA approved medication for the treatment of existing ulcers. Sold under the brand name of GastroGard, the medication is called omeprazole. GastroGard is generally prescribed for 30 days at the cost of around $32.00 a dose/tube. The only way to actually diagnose equine ulcers is through the use of an endoscopic examination. Otherwise you're just guessing.
To prevent equine ulcers, the exact same omeprazole is administered but at one quarter the dose of GastroGard. The product, also manufactured by Merial, is sold under the band name UlcerGard. GastroGard must be prescribed by a veterinarian as it is used for the treatment of ulcers. Since UlcerGard is used to prevent ulcers, it does not need a prescription. The tubes are identical, but the dosage is different. If giving GastoGard, you administer the entire tube. If giving UlcerGard, you give only one-quarter of the tube a day. A tube of UlcerGard generally costs the same as a tube of GastroGard.
Even though I doubted that Izzy had an ulcer, I decided to treat him with UlcerGard to see if it made any kind of a difference. I used it for four consecutive days. I also bought a second tube with the plan to use one dose each week for a month. I looked at it like giving him a Tums. My stomach gets "ulcery" at times but a few Tums over a couple of days generally gets me feeling back to normal.
Did it help? I don't know. At the same time that I administered the four days of UlcerGard, I also worked the snot out of him. After looking at every possible factor, I realized that his jackassery started when we moved the clocks back an hour. I think that the change in my schedule - coming out at what felt like an hour later, combined with less saddle time, simply rocked Izzy's little world.
I am still going to give the once-a-week dose over the next month, and I am considering adding a tube of UlcerGard to his routine when I know a change is coming. As a side note, both of my boys are on Platinum Performance Equine which contains Calcium, Magnesium, and Thiamine, the same ingredients found in many over the counter ulcer supplements. If those ingredients were going to "fix" anything, you would have thought it would have already happened.
Overall, the best "therapy" for this horse comes free of charge: exercise in the form of lunging on a line and free lunging. When he's tired, he remembers who I am, and his brain re-engages.
Who doesn't love "free?"
11/21/2018 07:12:07 am
We had a Morgan who was prone to them. We put him on Stomach Soother, a papaya based product. It helped him.
11/21/2018 10:35:45 am
What symptoms led you to try the Stomach Soother, and how did you know it was working?
I'll start with a disclaimer, I am not a vet or a nutritionist. I do however have a degree in Animal Science, have decades of experience working with vets and nutritionists in some of the top dressage facilities in the country, and have spent a fair amount of time studying things related to equine nutrition.
11/21/2018 10:51:09 am
Sean, you are welcome to share any time, no matter the length of the comment. And, if you happen to stop back by, you are also welcome to leave your barn name as a resource for other riders. You'd be surprised how many people read this blog - I know I am! :0)
11/21/2018 02:08:00 pm
Also, there is a Purina product called Outlast that a lot of endurance people are having good luck using, reporting that it improves attitude and performance. Not using it ourselves as we are no longer competing.
11/21/2018 02:34:44 pm
11/21/2018 04:54:44 pm
So I have a complete over achiever type horse, always needs to try, second guess, over do, you name it. He is a recipe for an ulcer. He shows no outward signs, other than girthiness and will kick at your hand on his ab area. I have finally learned that he is just not happy when I don't keep him on the omeprazole. I would absolutely disagree to not give a PPI. Why would you not make your horse a rideable, comfortable animal? Because of inconclusive studies? Horses don't compete for that long, they can withstand a decade of PPI's if need be. I have also started giving Equishure for hind gut ulcers, because my horse sometimes looks short on the right hind and that is a common sign. He has had every flexion, block, x-ray, chiropractic, bute, etc. to no avail. I figure if he has them in his stomach, he has them in his hind gut. He gives me all he can, so I figure I must do the same for him. You can get abprazole for much cheaper than Gastroguard, and it has always made just as big a difference.
My mare has always had an appetite (seriously, girl inhales food/grain/treats) and has never been listless, or dull. She is however incredibly grumpy tacking up, prone to flight, was weaned early, and is on limited turnout....
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About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: