Alison Morris

Some facts:

Equine Gastric Ulcers (EGUS): recent studies have found that as well as the 93% of racehorses, 37% of non performance horses and 63% of performance horses, suffer with Gastric Ulcers. Those are big numbers for an illness thought to be confined to the race track.

Clinical signs ,whilst sometimes vague, can include:

  • Dull coat
  • Weight Loss
  • Behavioural changes
  • Poor performance
  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mild or recurrent colic
  • Teeth grinding

Sergeants Story:

Earlier this year, whilst on a job, Sergeant, our laid back, steadfast horse, had a huge jump whilst being harnessed up. This out of character move was put down to a partly asleep horse and a less than considerate handler (me) taking him by surprise!

At the next event he jumped again during harnessing and stayed tense and jumpy until the bridle went on, this behaviour stayed with him for the rest of the season. The collar went on fine, almost eagerly, but everything else created a tense, unhappy horse. This was only happening when away from home and he still worked as well as ever regardless of location.

What was wrong? Had I spoked him so badly the first time… or was something more sinister at work?

We debated the possibility of ulcers, largely unbelievably, as he is a draft horse as far removed from a racehorse as you can get! Just in case, we brought an over the counter ulcer relief supplement. It was difficult to check its effectiveness as the problem was only arising away from home and he was showing absolutely no other symptoms at all, no weight loss, no depression, he had a beautiful shiny coat….

At the end of October Sergeant was due a short holiday before preparations begin for the Spring Show. With no signs of ill health we decided to review when he came back in to work.

A few weeks into his holiday I saw a post on facebook from our vets that they are holding an Ulcer clinic with reduced rates for the endoscopy and sedation. As this is the only way to 100% diagnose

EGUS we decided to take the offer up and had Sergeant scoped.

A sleepy Sergeant in the stocks, luckily the vets had recently invested in a second set of larger stocks

He just about fitted into their stocks and there was some talk whether a 3 meter camera lead would be long enough, but all went well and he was found to have grade 2 ulceration around the curvature in his stomach.

As ulcers go they are not as bad as they could be, and after a 10 day course of treatment and a change in feed and routine he will make a full recovery…. But it does make me wonder how many other horses get missed; Sergeants symptoms were so mild and infrequent they could easily have been explained.

This photo shows the ulcerated greater curvature.

Healthy pyloris

Back to facts:

Risk factors include – Intensive exercise or training. A diet high in concentrates or prolonged periods without food. Stable confinement. Psychological Stress. Some types of medication.

The severity of Gastric Ulcers can vary from inflammation (mildest) to perforation (usually fatal).

For the future we have replaced the Starch content of Sergeants diet with an Ulcer kind balancer (Topspec) and we will trial giving him a small feed of this prior to travelling and a haynet during transport to ensure there is no excess acid splashing around in his belly.