On the whole, horse owners exhibit a greater awareness of the dangers of horse ulcers than they used to. Obviously, this is an encouraging sign because awareness means better prevention, which is always a much better option than cure.
I am constantly reminded of this new-found awareness as I keep getting questions on various aspects of horse ulcers from horse owners, mostly on how to prevent them under certain conditions that are conducive to ulcers. I am going to address three of the questions most commonly asked.
These three questions relate to the following circumstances:
• horses undergoing antibiotic treatment
• horses confined because of illness or injury
• young horses being taken for first time training.
Preventing Ulcers at Times of Antibiotic Treatment
While I try to avoid antibiotic therapy as far as possible, it does become unavoidable at times of severe injuries and other conditions. The problem with antibiotics is that they can exterminate “friendly bacteria,” or probiotics in the horse’s gut. Friendly bacteria constitute a natural and vital element in your horse’s digestion. They make up the primary defence mechanism against invasive, disease-causing elements. The horse’s small intestine has the probiotic Acidophilus, while the probiotic bifidus is found in the large intestine.
Normal strengths of these friendly bacteria are necessary for retaining feed in the gut and preventing leakage into the horse’s bloodstream. This kind of leakage can lead to allergies and several other conditions, some of which can be chronic. When antibiotics decrease the strength of these friendly bacteria, they impair the horse’s health and digestive system. This could end up in ulcers.
Given this situation, secondary questions that arise from knowing horse owners are:
a. Can supplementary probiotics be fed to the horse during and after antibiotic therapy?
b. Should prebiotics (prebiotics serve as “feed” for probiotics in the gut) also be fed?
c. What prebiotic and probiotic brands are recommended?
The answers are:
a. While there is definite benefit in feeding prebiotics and probiotics while the antibiotic treatment is on, it is essential that probiotics be fed after the course is complete.
b. Replenish the horse’s internal probiotic strength and cut off any possible ulcer occurrence with products that contain prebiotics as well as probiotics.
c. FasTrack is one of the best probiotic and prebiotic brands. The product in paste form is more potent than the powder version. If the antibiotic course was given for not more than a week, Fastrack should be potent enough to bring back the probiotic content in your horse’s gut to normal. If the antibiotic course ran longer, or if your horse has a history of digestive issues, a better option would be Simplexity Essentials. Essentials come in daily supplement packs that are inclusive of enzymes, bifidus and acidophilus, as well as blue-green algae in two varieties. This algae is a very powerful ulcer preventive agent.
Preventing Ulcers in Confined Horses
Depending on his nature, your horse may find confinement soothing or irritating. If your horse is a highly competitive Wood type, sheer boredom and restlessness can produce ulcers in him. On the other hand, the more placid Earth type horse will be quite content when confined providing he gets lots to eat. You can get more details on the Five-Element types of personality in horses by visiting the Horse Harmony website. On this site, you can ascertain a horse’s personality type free of cost.
Each type will respond individually to being confined. However there are three ulcer preventive guidelines you can follow to prevent ulcers during confinement for all types of horses:
• reduce grain-type feed sharply
• boost hay feed
• use herb-based supplements such as Equilite’s Relax Blend or Simplexity’s blue-green algae, Omega Sun.
When you cut down on grain-type feed, you are making sure your horse is not going to feel excessively energetic without a release. More hay will keep the horse busy and its mind uncluttered, as horses are supposed to eat throughout the day. The added bonus is that hay clumps up into a fibrous mat in your horse’s upper stomach, making for an effective buffer that will resist the lower stomach’s acid. When the acid is allowed to reach the upper stomach in the absence of this kind of buffer, it may lead to ulcers.
Equilite’s Relax Blend or the blue-green algae in Simplexity’s Omega Sun can be effective in keeping your horse relaxed. When he is a relaxed state, his system functions are run by his parasympathetic system, a nervous system concerned with healing, relaxation and rejuvenation.
Preventing Ulcers in Horses Going into Training
Stress can cause ulcers in horses entering their first training program. Obviously, the solution is to relieve your horse of stress. You can give him probiotic support for this purpose.
If the horse is of a generally calm nature, FasTrack in daily doses will take care of the ulcer preventive priobiotic requirements. If the horse if more intense or uptight, a better option would be Simplexity Essentials. Compared to FasTrack, Essentials have more nutrients and higher densities of probiotics. Probiotic support is a must as probiotics produce B-vitamins, which have a soothing effect and are great for reducing stress levels and thereby avoiding ulcers.
After all that, if your horse still displays symptoms of stress, include two Eleviv capsules in his regimen every day. Eleviv is herbal and helps get horses to function from the calmer parasympathetic nervous system. Eleviv is known to have almost magical effects on horses that did not respond adequately to probiotics.
Stress can arise in horses from a number of circumstances, as was demonstrated in this article. Stress often results in ulcers. Hopefully, this article will be of some assistance to you in dealing with your horse’s stress better and keeping him from developing ulcers.