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  1. #1
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    Default Work and ulcers

    A vet at Iowa state did a double blind study for a commercial supplement company on their product. I don't think the study has been published in a scientific journal though, but the company is using it for advertising. I read it, and it looks as though it were well designed. The study used two groups of ten young TBs just being broken for racing at a private training track, one using the product and one with a placebo. All were scoped before the study and were ulcer free. Groups were similar in age, size, feeding protocol and work. Diet was 9 lbs of 12% sweet feed and 20 lbs per day of a mixed grass-alfalfa hay in two feedings. All were subjected to the usual track training--ie no turnout.

    What hit home to me was that 70% of the placebo horses and 50% of the total had developed ulcers within 21 days of the study start. That's downright scary.
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  2. #2
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    The consistent very high prevalence of ulcers in studies like these just makes me wonder if we're missing something--perhaps only SOME ulcers are actually pathological, and to some degree ulcers are a "normal" part of life for horses? I sure would like to see studies done on NON racehorses, for starters. It's hard to use the word "normal" when talking about how racehorses live.
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  3. #3
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    Default

    Interesting. Were they on the sweet feed prior to the study start? Were they all being started by the same person? It just seems odd that you'd see such a high percentage of ulcers, doesn't it?

    Also would wonder if some/any were symptomatic? I've had horses my whole life and never had one that had symptoms of ulcers--but that doesn't necessarily mean they didn't/don't have them.
    A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

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  4. #4
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    --but that doesn't necessarily mean they didn't/don't have them
    Right--if one scopes a horse that has no symptoms and finds ulcers, does treating that horse's ulcers make a significant impact?

    I just think we don't know enough about ulcers in horses--perhaps they aren't always a "disease". Or we just aren't studying the right groups of horses. Or something.
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  5. #5
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    DW, there was a study done I read quite a while back, at least 5 years, done on non-race horses. It was a fairly large group of horses at a barn. All were scoped clean before the study, and all that was done was a group of the horses were removed from the barn. Once moved, both groups kept to their routine of work and turnout. Over 70% (I want to say more like 80 but since I'm not sure, I at least know it was over 70) developed ulcers, INCLUDING horses who stayed at home who were never in work and didn't go into to work.

    That to me said a whole lot about how much horses internalize stress.
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  6. #6
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    Default

    The flip side may be, if we assume that up to 70% of horses of a certain age have ulcers, that some are just much more stoic about it and don't show symptoms or there are a lot of people out there who don't notice. Which could go back to some of the breed specific stuff...maybe. My QH/Morgan/Arab mutt horse could have all sorts of things going on with her that I'd never notice because she's so danged stoic. Yet most of the TB's I've been around are hot house flowers by comparison. Even a bug bite can be cause for distress. LOL

    I would love to see the study when it's published!
    A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

    Might be a reason, never an excuse...



  7. #7
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    Just a guess, but I wonder if the majority of horses are likely to develop ulcers with any major change in routine or environment. I know my horse gets ulcers when I moved him to different farms; he was on 24/7 turnout with plenty of grass both places, but the change in pasturemates and added stress of a new place made him a picky eater and changed his behavior (nutty as a squirrel). A round of ulcer meds and he was back to himself.

    I bet a lot of horses get ulcers during travel or any kind of stress; some just don't show problematic symptoms, while others are so bothered their behavior completely changes and owners/riders spend gobs of money on calmers/supplements/vetwork etc when all the horse is trying to say is "My tummy hurts."
    “A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.”
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  8. #8
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    That to me said a whole lot about how much horses internalize stress.
    See, I think that is potentially more extrapolation than the data can support. What if SOME ulcers are not, in fact, pathological/stress-related/abnormal? What if SOME ulcers just . . . happen, and we are not doing a good enough job of sorting out which ones are actual problems and which ones are not? What if there are "bad" ulcers and ones that are not a problem, and we are just categorizing them into one big group as a lump because we don't know the difference?

    This is what I mean by not knowing enough about ulcers. It's logical, but not necessarily correct, to make all the same assumptions about horse ulcers that we do about human ones.
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  9. #9
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    Very true.

    I think it's important to note though that in all these studies, horses are scoping clean before the changes are made. That has to say something. The horse's design seems to lend itself very easily to the development of ulcers, with constant stomach acid, but not a total stomach protection, so any time the horse moves to the extend that acid sloshes around, it's going to start doing something to the unlined portion. I'm sure there are some feral horses who have wicked ulcers, maybe solely due to living in a situation where fast(er) movement is a regular part of life.

    I do agree that there is probably a large range of ulcers - some that for whatever reason simply don't bother horses, and others that do to a great degree. I'm sure it depends on how deep they are and where exactly they are. Then there's the horse's own tolerance for discomfort and pain.
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  10. #10
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    "A round of ulcer meds and he was back to himself. " Quote Eventer AJ

    One has to wonder whether treated with Tincture of Time, the problem would resolve itself as quickly.

    Years ago we never really heard of ulcers, nor did we treat for them, and our horses went on and performed as expected with a little extra adjustment time.
    Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.



  11. #11
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    I don't think horses just went around without ulcers back in the day. I think far too many issues were just chalked up to quirks and training or the horse just being a snot. Girthy horses existed back in the day. Horses who didn't want to go forward existed. Horses who bucked "for no good reason" existed.

    Years ago people used 1 saddle on 12 different horses and never gave much thought to if it REALLY fit. That doesn't mean there weren't fit issues.

    Thankfully we have science and learning to tell us that we know things today that we didn't know yesterday, but wish we had.
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  12. #12
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    Funny! Places where I rode had a saddle and tack for each horse. And we expected each horse to have a different personality, too. In general horsemanship was more prized.

    Thanks to groups like Pony Club and 4 H there is still a core of horse managers.

    But then again, they dewormed with tobacco, back in the day.
    Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.



  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by JB View Post
    I don't think horses just went around without ulcers back in the day. I think far too many issues were just chalked up to quirks and training or the horse just being a snot. Girthy horses existed back in the day. Horses who didn't want to go forward existed. Horses who bucked "for no good reason" existed.

    Years ago people used 1 saddle on 12 different horses and never gave much thought to if it REALLY fit. That doesn't mean there weren't fit issues.

    Thankfully we have science and learning to tell us that we know things today that we didn't know yesterday, but wish we had.
    This.

    And with some horses, time alone doesn't mean squat when healing ulcers. If I had of left my mare's ulcers alone and let "time" heal them (in addition to all other maintenance being conducive to healing them...turnout, hay all the time, no grain diet, etc) she would've died from starvation because they were so painful she wasn't eating or drinking.
    "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."



  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by merrygoround View Post
    "A round of ulcer meds and he was back to himself. " Quote Eventer AJ

    One has to wonder whether treated with Tincture of Time, the problem would resolve itself as quickly.

    Years ago we never really heard of ulcers, nor did we treat for them, and our horses went on and performed as expected with a little extra adjustment time.
    Trust me, until this horse, I was not a big Ulcer believer. And I'm still not on the Everything Has Ulcers and Needs Medication bandwagon.

    But for this particular horse...time was not working. I waited 2-3 months after I switched barns, thinking he'd get over it, he'd adjust, it was just a winter thing, etc. He got worse; eating less, more girthy, still nuts to ride. Time was not healing it, and I placed an order for pop rocks...thinking he'd probably be better by the time they made their slow way over from India. Finally, after three days of pop rocks my horse was eating up a storm, not girthy, and not spastic under saddle. I felt pretty guilty that I could have helped him earlier, instead of expecting him to suffer through it and heal himself over time.

    Would he eventually get over the ulcers? Probably, especially when late spring/summer grass came in. But was it fair to expect him to "just get over it" in Jan/Feb/March, while still in work, and trying further his training?

    In hindsight, my UL mare probably got a little ulcery when traveling long distance and competing in the winter and early spring. She would be a picky eater/drinker on the road at shows, and while she's always sensitive (b!tchy) she could be worse sometimes. But it never affected her work ethic or performance, so I never considered treating it. When we got home, she would eat and drink better. Obviously, the ulcers healed without special treatment, and she toughed it out fine when it came time to work.

    IME, some horses heal themselves (or are more stoic about it) than others. For those who are more sensitive to ulcers, whom I ask to perform in training and competition, I won't expect them to "just deal with it" anymore. A horse living outside, not in work, in good weight...well, his ulcers can heal with tincture of time and lots of forage. But a skinny, young, growing TB adjusting to changes in his life, and learning under saddle? He may get the benefit of some ulcer meds if he needs it.
    “A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.”
    ? Albert Einstein

    ~AJ~



  15. #15
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    [QUOTE=

    What hit home to me was that 70% of the placebo horses and 50% of the total had developed ulcers within 21 days of the study start. That's downright scary.[/QUOTE]

    Did they publish feeding times and work times? Just feeding 2x's a day in meal form would probably cause ulcers in some horses. Wonder what would happen if they were given hay 24/7 and no sweet feed, just supplimented with vitamins and minerals. The study really means nothingh to me.
    Charlie Piccione
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  16. #16
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    It is interesting to see how quickly ulcers can be created. I would love a study like Charlie Piccione suggested, except add a group on slow feed nets, a group on free choice, and a group with 2 hay feedings per day.
    Last edited by reay6790; Jan. 23, 2013 at 08:21 PM.



  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Piccione View Post
    Did they publish feeding times and work times? Just feeding 2x's a day in meal form would probably cause ulcers in some horses. Wonder what would happen if they were given hay 24/7 and no sweet feed, just supplimented with vitamins and minerals. The study really means nothingh to me.
    Exactly what I was wondering.

    Do another study with horses that live out 23/7 and start getting worked.



  18. #18
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    The original study indicated subjects got 20 pounds of hay per day, which is pretty generous. Horses on the track often have hay in front of them nearly all the time, other than for a few hours prior to racing. Rarely are track horses just thrown big piles of hay--it is generally in nets and hung up about 20 hours/day. It is also pretty hard to keep a TB in race training without feeding it some grain--they work for a living!

    As I said, horses on the track are hardly poster children for optimal horse-keeping, but they are certainly not deprived of hay in front of them for long periods of time.

    And feeding and work times on the track are pretty much the same no matter where you go.
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  19. #19
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    Hey Doc, IMO, 20#s of hay being feed to a hard working horse probably is not generous. I feed a little mare a full kicker bale 35#"s a day in 2 hay nets and she finishes that with no problem. She is not in work at the time and she is also fairly fit at about 900 lbs. and only 14.1 hands. conciderably smaller than the track horses. I handle several new off the track / rescue horses on a regular basis. I would not say that most are in good flesh when they arrive but all have POOR feet and are stressed out to the max. Whether that is diet related or handling is hard for me to tell, but all improve when taken from the track.
    Sweet feed a no no.
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  20. #20
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    Of all the factors that contribute to the condition a horse might be in coming off the track, I'd put "sweet feed" near the bottom.

    When I was running 100 miles a week during college I could pull off eating hash browns and 2-3 bowls of Cap'n Crunch for breakfast, day in and day out. I was lean, mean, and nothing but muscle.

    Sweet feed is one type of feed among many. Probably totally unsuitable for the average idle part-bred but a lean, fit, racing blood horse needs racing fuel to some degree.
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