While doing some research online on ulcers in horses I came across Cynthia Collins “Luna Tunes Freestyles” and found myself reading her page about ulcers in horses and all the amazing information it contained so I could not help but ask Cynthia if she minded me sharing it with all our readers as it is a lot of great information. Cynthia Collins is not only a top dressage ride, top freestyle designer and choreographer in the country, but she is also a wealth of knowledge when it comes to horses affected by ulcers as she has had experience with them for over 10 years. I hope everyone gets as much out of it as I did. The information below is neither recommended by Excel Supplements, nor not recommended, but is simply shared as an interesting article. Excel EQ is a great supplement for ulcer horses as it offers a high amount of Omega 3 in the right ratio with Omega 6 as well as natural Vitamin E which also has healing properties that can be beneficial to ulcers.
Cynthia Collins and Larisa
“I own a very talented mare. She’s an excellent mover and loves to work, but she worries. I trained my last mare to Grand Prix with the help of a two time Olympian. I have started many babies, so I felt that I knew what I was doing. I have ridden many disciplines besides dressage including barrel racing, eventing, and hunter, jumpers. Unfortunately, the farther we got into our training, the more spooking was occurring. She is extremely athletic, and most of the behavior was blamed on her hotness.
A friend of mine had told me that her gelding was very similar to my mare in personality and she had treated her horse for ulcers. I began researching on the internet. I found out that horses had been treated successfully and consulted two of my veterinarians for their opinions. Since they both knew her, they both thought ulcers were a high possibility. We discussed have her scoped, but both vets said that I should try a test treatment. After a few days, I saw a major change in my horse’s behavior within a few days.
Over the last decade, I have tried several different treatments. Below is what I have found works best for my horse. I am amazed at the difference in her behavior. I do believe you need to use medication while the correct feed heal the ulcers.”
Stomach Ulcers Research
According to the latest veterinarian studies, “Almost 60% of performance horses have ulcers. Up to 57% of foals have stomach ulcers, particularly during the first several months of life. Most of these horses and foals show no signs of illness.” (See www.horseadvice.com; “Gastric Ulcers in Horses,” by Robert N. Oglesby, DVM.) (“USDF Connections, Oct. 2003.)
“New research shows that stomach ulcers can occur within five days in horses exposed to recreational show conditions and activities. The study, reported in the September 1, 2005 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) , indicated that seven out of 10 horses developed ulcers when exposed to normal situations related to weekend show travel. These included transportation, twice daily feeding, light exercise and stall confinement. Researchers and veterinarians have historically associated stomach ulcers with high-performance or racehorses. This new study shows just how easily horses can develop stomach ulcers in association with less-strenuous, recreational activities such as weekend horse shows or events. “The research demonstrated that conditions representing typical activities of the recreationally used horse are associated with an increased incidence of gastric ulcers within a short time period,” said Dr. Scott McClure, DVM, PhD, author of the study. “The findings reported should increase awareness that gastric ulcers affect a greater population of horses than previously thought.” The study included a total of 20 horses determined to be ulcer-free. Ten of the horses were exposed to conditions over the next five days that simulated a weekend horse show. This included four hours of transport to a secondary facility, three days of light training (thirty minutes of lunging twice per day), twice daily feeding, stall confinement and a four-hour trip back to the home facility. The other ten horses remained together in a paddock at the home location as a control group. All 20 horses underwent a second endoscopy on day five. Results showed that seven out of ten horses transported off-site had developed stomach ulcers within only five days. Furthermore, two of the control horses developed ulcers, possibly due to the change in herd dynamics after the first group was transported away. The research highlights just how easily horses can get stomach ulcers and the opportunity for proactive prevention. Ulcers can be prevented with a maintenance dose of Omeprazole.
“There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that the more you can mimic the almost continuous natural grazing behavior of horses in the wild, the better,” said study co-author Becky Hothersall, PhD, a researcher studying Equine Learning and Cognition at the University’s School of Veterinary Science. The authors found horses fed more hay displayed generally quieter behavior, and fewer stereotypic behaviors (such as cribbing or weaving), compared to horses fed infrequent and large high-starch meals. “More time spent eating less nutrient-rich food is likely to fulfill your horse’s instincts to forage, and may reduce digestive problems or blood sugar fluctuations associated with large meals,” Hothersall said. The study noted that after a horse ingests a large, starchy meal, “the higher proportion of dry matter in the stomach contents slows the mixing of feed and gastric juice … and can result in discomfort and even gastric colic.”
Four steps to healing and controlling stomach ulcers
Cynthia has found that you need a combination of science thru medications along with dietary changes in order to get rid of and continue to control ulcers.
It is important to understand that horses produce stomach acid 24/7, but these horses are producing excess stomach acid and you MUST CONTROL THE AMOUNT OF ACID in the stomach in order TO CONTROL THE DAMAGE TO THE STOMACH. Ulcers are a result of damage done to the upper lining in the stomach by acid. There are times you may need to use more, less, or none. Only by observing your horse and it’s behavior you can make these decisions. You will need to monitor your horse on a daily basis. It’s important to use the medication and feeds to heal the stomach and intestines. Healing takes several weeks, but you will see changes in behavior as soon as the body starts to heal.
Once healed, it is VERY common that your horse could get them again. So you must monitor them and may need to treat more than once.
- STEP 1:Reduce the amount of acid in the stomach.
The first part is to lessen the production of stomach acid. This is achieved by the use of Ranitidine which is both effective for 8 hours, and/or Omeprazole which is effective for 24 hours.
Omeprazole has been proven as the most effective of the three in horses. Omeprazole is a proton pump inhibitor which means it “restricts the amount of stomach acid produced, thereby protecting the lining of the stomach from excess acid exposure.” (USDF Connection; Oct. 2003, pg. 27.) One reason this is the most effective means of treated ulcers is because it is effective for 24 hours. Because it works for a long period of time, the stomach can have enough time to heal itself. These medications need to be given at least 21 days to ensure adequate healing of the ulcer. However, the reoccurrence of ulcers is high, so a 1/4 maintenance dose may be necessary. Please be aware that this medication does not shut down all of the acid producing pumps, just some of them. They will still have enough acid to digest their feed.
Buying Omeprazole ~ There are several ways of getting Omeprazole.
You can buy GastroGard from your vet or Ulcer Gard on-line. This is the same company and the same dosage in a tube. It’s just packaged and marketed differently. This is, however, the most expensive way to buy it at $32 per tube.
Cynthia has found sources of generic of Omeprazole which are much cheaper. They come in several different forms. She has found NO difference by using any of these products versus the name brands. They are all effective treatment options. Some vets only want you to use the brand names, but Omeprazole is Omeprazole, no matter the source.
Source One: You can get Omeprazole in a powder or paste from Precision Pharmacy . Your vet can call them at (877) 734-3338 or Fax at (661) 377-3334 or My Precision Pharmacy The powder comes with a 1.4 g scoop, so it would take two scoops for a full dose. Just sprinkle over your supplements or mixed with Mylanta and syringed into the mouth. This also a very good price if you can get your vet to call them. You do need a prescription for the order. Maintenance would be 1/2 scoop per day.
Source Two: You can get a generic paste from a company in Canada without a prescription Canadian GastroGuard. They take a few weeks to get here. This is because US Customs can hold them up.
Source Three: This source has one of the best price available You can get Omeprazole without a prescription in pill, granulated packet’s, paste, or multi use paste from Houston, TX. The granules seem easy to add to your supplements. They will send you 20 packets (4 equals a full dose) for free. The Stable Pac has 5 full doses in one tube. You can buy 4 tubes (20 days) for $170 on Abler.com
Of course, you can always go to the drug store and by Prilosec OTC (generic is available).
***It is important to understand the dosage of Omeprazole. Omeprazole shuts down some of the pumps in the stomach, not all of them. The number of pumps shut down depends on the dosage. The higher the dose, the greater number of pumps shut down. I do recommend full dosage for at least two weeks to start with. Then you can try 1/2 dose for the next two weeks. Finally, try a 1/4 dose for another two weeks. If the horse is doing well, you can try to take them off the Omeprazole altogether. But know, most ulcer horses WILL GET THEM AGAIN. So you may need it all the time, although not full doses. That’s why a cheap source is SO important.
If your horse experiences stress, worming, or using Bute/Banamine, or starts having problems again, you will need to return to a full dose for a while.
Stress can come in many different forms. What a horse considers as stress, may seem like nothing to us. They only think in “herd” terms and small changes could make the difference between life and death to a wild horse. This is built into them. Ulcer horses take these things VERY seriously. It doesn’t matter that we take care of them or they live securely in a barn. They still have basic “wild” instincts. Even if they seem calm, that could mean they are internalizing. Again, very common for an ulcer horse. After the stress has passed, you can try to return to maintenance doses for a few weeks. Your horse may be able to be Omeprazole free once the ulcers have healed. But remember, most ulcer horses get them again and again, so you must keep a eye on them.
If you are going to take your horse “off” the property for training or show, you should return to full doses starting 4 days prior, during, and for a week after the experience. This is really the best way to keep the horse’s ulcers from occurring.
- STEP 2:Absorb excess acid in the stomach
The second part is to absorb excess acid and coat the upper 1/3 of the stomach. This is done by using Tums, Maalox, Mylanta, U-Gard, or Neigh-Lox. These all do the same job, absorb stomach acid. Although they work almost immediately, they only work for about 30 – 45 minutes. So using them alone will not give the horse’s stomach enough time to heal itself. But they are very effective in reducing stomach pain quickly. It’s also important to know that these products themselves will not make the horse to relax. The horse is tense because it’s stomach hurts. You can use this method instead of using the Omeprazole, however, I recommend using both together. If you cannot afford the Omeprazole, then give the antacid 3 – 6 times a day. Giving a little Alfalfa hay also helps as the Calcium is high. That’s what absorbs the acid. Just be careful as it is also high in sugar.
- STEP 3:Keep the stomach full of hay
This is a must for ulcer horses, especially before exercise. Horses produce stomach acid all the time since they are meant to be grazing most of the day. It is important to keep grass hay in front of them 24/7. You can also feed the some alfalfa hay as it is high in calcium which absorbs stomach acid. But be careful as it is high in sugar which can increase hotness.Cynthia ALWAYS feed all my horses about 2-4 cups alfalfa/grass pellets before she rides any horse.
- STEP 4: Foods that can help heal
There are a few foods that she truly believes have helped to heal her horse’s stomach. She has tried many, many different supplements and herbs that were supposed to help and found they made NO difference her horses. She has seen major changes in her horse with these. She does use them all the time as maintenance.
Foods that can help are:
- The first is dried cabbage. This is full of the amino acid, L-Glutamine, that is proven to heal the stomach lining. You feed 1/2 cup of dried cabbage. She has found this to be the extremely effective. You can get the dried cabbage at Harmony House Foods You can get fresh cabbage at the store. You can either chop it up or by the package of coleslaw makings (less the dressing), dry and feed it. I have found fresh cabbage to make them gassy. So the dried cabbage works better. To dry your own, place the chopped cabbage in metal strainers for 3 to 5 days on top of your stove, in your oven or window ceil in the sun.
- The second is raw pumpkin seeds (peeled/hulled). These are high in Nitric Oxide which the body uses to heal everything that needs healing. She soaks 1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds per horse for about 8 hours. The benefit is that it brings the seeds alive and makes them more potent. However, you can feed them dry or use pumpkin seed powder. She has found the pumpkin seeds to benefit all my horses. These little seeds contain amazing healing abilities. Cynthia has been amazed by the results. You can get them at www.bulkfoods.com or www.bulkwholefoods.com If you don’t want to buy and feed all of this separately, you may want to try one product that has everything in it, except the Omeprazole. It is made from organic sprouted seeds along with oat bran, mirco-crystalized aloe juice, and cabbage, called Tums-Ease EQ. It “helps reduce the effect of stomach acid production on intestinal mucosa. They are in the form of cookies, so they are very easy to use. You can either hand feed or add your horse’s grain. You can get them at Biostareq The founder of these products has horses and developed her products with amazing results with her own horses. She has over 20 years experience in the human supplement field. There is also Furnace EQ that contains pumpkin seeds that will help heal anything that needs healing, including the stomach and intestines.
- Third, is to feed high Amounts of Omega 3’s. She has found the best way is 1 cup flax seeds each day. They must be ground. She uses a small coffee grinder. The oils from these seeds have been shown to heal the stomach. She also feeds 1 cup of Rice Bran twice a day.
- Fourth is high amounts of Vitamin C. Orange peel powder, Grape seeds Powder, and/or Green Tea powder are all high in Natural C. Do not use synthetic Ascorbic Acid. It does not work.
Many also believe that the use of herbs, such as Slippery Elm, Marshmallow root, Ginger, and Licorice may also help soothe the stomach. She has used them, but didn’t see a lot of difference.
Cynthias Treatment and Feeding Program
The following are the foods and medication she gives and why she feeds them. You can use whatever you want. She does believe the cabbage, oat flour, and pumpkin seeds are easy and are a must. As with all feed changes, you should take one to two weeks to work up to the suggested amounts. All her horses love these foods.
Feed: Free choice grass hay 24/7
Medication: 1/4, 1/2, or full dose of generic Omeprazole as needed
She feels the following are absolutely necessary to heal and maintain the stomach and hind gut:
She feeds this twice a day in a bucket:
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds/powder (heals everything including stomach)
1/4 cup dried cabbage (L-Glutamine heals the stomach),
1/4 cup Oat Flour/Fiber (heals hind gut; see below),
1 oz. Probiotics (aids digestion, she uses Fast Track)
1/2 cup ground Flax seeds
1 cup of Rice Bran
She mixes them with:
1 cup soybean pellets (high protein, low sugar)
2 cup of Alfalfa/Bermuda hay pellets
Foods with vitamins for all horses, if you desire:
A few carrots (Vit. A), 2 Tablespoons Brewer’s Yeast (Vit. B) this really helps with calming, Orange peel powder (Vit. C), Green Tea powder (L-Theanine helps with calming)
She does not feed any grains. These are hard on an ulcer horse’s stomach and difficult to digest.
She also does NOT feed any synthetic vitamins/mineral supplements or concentrated feeds. Many studies of these have shown that most of these do NOT contain the amounts of supplements they CLAIM are in their feed. Currently, there is NO regulation for animal feeds and supplements to make sure the labels match what’s inside. Plus most charge from 200% up to 500% of what it costs them to make and package these products. Basically, you are spending a lot of money on something that may or may not contain the labeled ingredients.
ALWAYS before ride: 2 – 4 cups alfalfa/grass pellets and 5 – 10 Tums or 200 cc (1/4 cup) of Mylanta squirted into mouth with syringe or mixed with pellets.
Shows: Increase to a full dose of Omeprazole at least four days before any show or traveling and continue this through the entire show. Make sure her stomach is full of hay pellets before riding. Then, she also gives her 100 cc of Mylanta or 5 Tums right before mounting and before entering the arena.
There are a lot of theories about the causes of ulcers and how they should be treated. Although she agrees with them, there is no guarantee that by doing these things, your horse will never have ulcers.
First, that horses need food in their gut 24/7. This is true. The bottom 2/3 of horse’s stomach produces acid to help the digestion of food. However, the top 1/3 is not meant to have any acid on it. Because of that, this is where the ulcers occur. To help with this, it is recommended that you keep grass hay in front of your horse at all times. The reality is many horses with ulcers do not eat on a regular basis because their stomach hurts. Having the grass hay to munch on all the time will really help. If you board their horse, see if you can get grass hay in front of them at all times. Also, adding a flake of alfalfa hay at night is helpful as the Calcium helps absorb stomach acid.
At the 2003 conference of the American Association of Equine Practioners, ulcers were a major topic. One cause of ulcers is the mere act of exercising the horse without enough food in the gut. Studies have proven this by running a scope into the horse’s stomach and then exercising them on a treadmill. The acid in their stomach did splash up to the top third of the stomach wall causing irritation. However, horses that had food in their gut had less problems as the food combined with the acid to form a paste. Thus there was less splashing. I have solved this problem by feeding my horse four cups of hay pellets while grooming and tacking her up.
Second, is that horses are meant to be outside rather than locked up in a stall. The reality for many horse owners is that they board and these faculties only have stalls. Also, although most horse owners do turn out their horses on a regular basis, some don’t for fear that the horse may injure themselves while playing. It is also important to know that ulcers have been found in horses who are kept in a pasture, so this in itself, may not prevent ulcers.
Third is that reducing stress will cure and prevent ulcers. While keeping the horse as relaxed as possible is the goal of many riders training program, today’s modern athlete has been bred to perform. Most riders want their horses as comfortable as possible and the use of medications to help this process is absolutely necessary. This is because these highly bred athletes tend to produce more acid than they actually need to digest their food. Many of them are high strung and often become nervous during work outs and/or competitions. Think of yourself when you get nervous. You may develop “butterflies in your stomach.” This is actually caused because your stomach gets tight and starts producing acid. What do you do? You take something to help relieve the discomfort. This is the same for your horse. It is recommended to try and help relax your horse as much as possible whenever possible.
Fourth, is that ulcers are caused from the bacteria H. pylori. Although this can be true in people, there has been no evidence that this bacteria exists in horses.
One last note, if you think your horse might have stomach ulcers, it probably does. Don’t wait. Do something about it today. Your horse will thank you and you’ll both be happier.
Hind Gut Health and Colonic Ulcers
During his presentation at the 2005 American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) Practice Management Seminar: Focus on Equine Colic, internationally recognized veterinarian Frank Andrews, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, discussed the importance of recent research conducted by Franklin Pellegrini, DVM. Pellegrini’s work, published in the March issue of the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, sharply highlighted the previously unrecognized frequency and importance of colonic ulcers in horses. Pellegrini’s findings show that colonic ulceration may be present in up to 63% of performance horses, and 54% of performance horses may have both gastric and colonic ulcers. “Ulcers in the colon can be a significant cause of colic for many horses,” Andrews said. “Dr. Pellegrini’s research reveals just how many horses may be affected, but the trouble is that medications designed to work on stomach ulcers just don’t provide relief or treatment in the colon.” This suggests that an entirely different method of treatment is necessary to help with colonic ulcers than for stomach ulcers. He recognized probiotics and digestive aids as important tools in helping the many performance horses that may have colon pain. Polar lipids, present in oat fiber, were among the nutrients that Dr. Andrews presented as helping with overall digestive health. These components of oat oil help transport nutrients into the blood stream and support a healthy gut lining. Soluble oat fiber, which supports the immune system, amino acids and yeast extracts were also discussed as important nutrients.
YOUR HORSE PROBABLY DOES NOT HAVE A HEALTHY HIND GUT and may even have ulcers there.
Horses are “Hind Gut” digesters. They are nonruminant herbivores. The hind gut is designed to process plant materials by micro organisms (good bacteria) in the fore gut and then digest the food in the hind gut. That means, if the hind gut is not healthy, they are not getting all the nutrients from the food you are feeding them. By healing the hind gut, your horse will get more from it’s feed, be healthier, perform better, and have less chances of colic.
There are things you can feed to help the hind gut and they are not expensive:
The first is by adding oat flour, not oats, to your horses daily feed. You can go to a local health food store and purchased Oat flour. Or you can order 50 lbs. of oat flour from www.Honeyvillegrain.com or ANY place that grinds grains for bakers. I recommend feeding 1/2 cup a day for 30 days, then 1/4 cup a day after that. It does take 30 – 90 days to see the results since the hind gut is about 24 feet long. You can use oat fiber (contains the hulls of the oats). I have tried both and they seem to work equally. The fiber is about twice as much in cost.
You should also add a Probiotic to you daily feed. There are several products out there that contain the good bacteria which your horse must have in order to digest the nutrients out of it’s feed. Lactobacillus Acidophilus is one of the most common used. These good bacteria are destroyed by wormers, the use of Bute and/or Banamine, treatment of antibiotics, and stress. She highly recommends Fast Track and feeds 2 oz. per day. You can purchase that at FASTRACK Microbials for Horses and Dogs.
Worming the Ulcer Horse
Worming the ulcer horse can be a bit tricky, but they must be wormed regularly. There are many different types of wormers and you should rotate them through out the year. Although the Ivermectin is very effective, I have found that it does seem to cause ulcer horse’s some discomfort. I have had good success with Pyrantel pamoate and Fenbendazole. I have also used the Panacur Power Pack. Just try to plan to worm during a time when there is less stress and know that you horse will need some time to get everything in it’s system back in balance.
If you have to use medication to control pain, know that Bute and Banamine are COX-1 and COX-2 inhibitors. While the COX-2 inhibits pain, the COX-1 interferes and damages the digestive system. Being on these medications for even 3 days can cause ulcers in a healthy horse. If you can, you should use a COX-2 only inhibitor such as Equinox or Previcox (for dogs).
Horses, as all animals, think in either Alpha brain waves (calm), or Beta waves (afraid/tense). The trick is to try and keep your horses thinking in the Alpha waves. This is accomplished by controlling the head level. A high headed horse is using in Beta waves. It is tense and wants to get away from whatever it feels is a danger. (With ulcers horses, this makes them want to get away from the pain in their own stomach.) By keeping the head at a lower level, the horse goes into Alpha waves and it can relax. If you can understand how they are thinking, you can help to try and keep them in Alpha waves. Eventually, this will help in reducing the cause of ulcers, the production of stomach acid.
Sometimes people think their horse is having training difficulties, when if fact, the horse is in pain. She has found time and time again, if your horse cannot or will not do something that you think they should be able to do, PUT DOWN THE WHIP, GET OFF, AND START LOOKING FOR A PAIN ISSUE. It may not be easy to find and you need a good vet to help, but she assures you, once you find it, the horse will work willingly. It could be sore hocks, stifles, hooves, backs, ovulation in mares, TMJ, or ulcers. There are very few horses that are bad tempered. They usually want to please. Some horses have been in pain for so many years, they have lost all the joy that was once in their souls. Most of the time, the horse is as frustrated as the rider.
Cynthia has worked with many different breeds and in many different disciplines for over 30 years, and the more she rides the more she believes that horses will work through a tremendous amount of pain. They are kind animals who seek the approval of the head of the herd, the rider. But we, as horsemen and women, have a tremendous responsibility to our horses. We must really listen to our horses. They cannot talk to us with language, so they must speak with actions. If you were in pain, and someone was forcing you to do something that hurt, wouldn’t you act out? Once you have looked for a pain issue first and are secure in the knowledge that there is no pain, then continue with the training.
Remember, a qualified Veterinarian is the best help for your horse.