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Riding on an empty stomach - OK or bad?

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  • #21
    Originally posted by PNWjumper View Post

    I have several horses who go 12-14 hours every single day with zero food in front of them without an ulcer to show for it. Don't know what to say. As someone else said, works for some, not for others.

    Most of my horses live out 24/7 (well, they all live in/out 24/7), so it's a moot point because they *can* get *something*, nutritious/good or not....though those that live out 24/7 rarely spend time out in their bigger field eating and mostly just hang out around the barn. But a couple live in diet pens and cannot eat more than one flake twice a day or they turn into something that looks more like a hippo than a horse.

    I would not be bothered by the barn not feeding for 12 hours at a time unless my horse was starting to show signs of ulcers.
    Unless you scoped every single one of those horses I call BS. Just because your horses are stoic enough to not show their ulcer symptoms doesn’t mean they don’t have them. There is no way their empty stomach can be subjected to stomach acid for 12-14 hours with absolutely nothing in it on a regular basis and not have that acid damage the stomach lining.
    McDowell Racing Stables

    Home Away From Home

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    • Original Poster

      #22
      Thank you all - these are great suggestions! I will pursue them with my barn owner / manager and see what we can come up with.

      Comment


      • #23
        Originally posted by Laurierace View Post

        Unless you scoped every single one of those horses I call BS. Just because your horses are stoic enough to not show their ulcer symptoms doesn’t mean they don’t have them. There is no way their empty stomach can be subjected to stomach acid for 12-14 hours with absolutely nothing in it on a regular basis and not have that acid damage the stomach lining.
        So I'll say a couple of things here. The first is that the "type" of horse I have who goes without food is one type; the prone-to-getting-obese type. It's totally possible that that type of horse just isn't prone to ulcers. But I can say pretty confidently that none of my 3 are ulcery horses. They are bright-eyed, bushy tailed, shiny, show no discomfort (ever), and just have zero symptoms or signs of ulcers.

        My 23yo mare is one of the 3 and she was a road warrior show horse forEVER through the highest levels. If ever there was a horse that *should* have had ulcers, it was her. But she did not ever show even the tiniest symptom. I even, at various points, put her on omeprazole and other stomach additives during the show months to zero effect.....ever (this is when I was in the "all show horses MUST have ulcers" phase). To your point, of course *not showing* symptoms doesn't mean she is and always has been completely ulcer free, but boy, she shows me how she feels in every way and that just is not one of them.

        So say what you like, but I am confident that the 3 I have do not have ulcers that cause them discomfort. And I think it's asinine to say that ALL horses who go a period of time without eating have ulcers. I don't know what your experience with horses has been, but the only superlative I've ever been able to express with horses is that NOTHING has ever been all-or-nothing EVER in my experience. And I will take a happy, not-uncomfortable, horse over a morbidly obese horse, though it's possible all 3 of mine would prefer the obese route?

        And, for the record, I'm not a non-believer in ulcers. I contrast those horses of mine with my 3 horses who are absolute ulcer showboats. I've posted about my TB gelding here a ton over the years (like, a ton). He is the poster child for ulcers. I have a nervous/worrier-type mare who is a poster child for ulcers in a completely different way, and then I have a pony who is a combination of the other two. I always assume ulcers first. And more often than not, treating/feeding for ulcers has made the biggest difference of anything I've tried. Those three are on different regimens from each other, but I have a program that seems to work best for each (and yes, part of which is keeping food in front of them 24/7).

        I just think this is one of those things where COTH goes overboard. Jumping from "hey, should I ride my otherwise happy, healthy horse before morning feeding?" to "dear god move your poor, ulcer-ridden, unhappy horse to another barn STAT!" is ridiculous. For better or worse, a 10-12 hour break from food is not abnormal in the boarding world. This is part of why I keep mine at home, and as stated above, most live in a field 24/7 and have access to *something* 24/7, and I wouldn't change that if I could. But perhaps it's more helpful to make suggestions like Guilherme, Wild Goose Chase, quietann, and several others rather than melodramatically stating, "*gasp* I would NEVER!!"....
        __________________________________
        Flying F Sport Horses
        Horses in the NW

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        • #24
          Having something as normal/not abnormal doesn't make it right. It's very common, not abnormal, to see abysmal hoof care, but that doesn't make it ok or healthy or even benign.

          The biology/physiology of the stomach is such that it's just not possible to have no ulcers, never have ulcers, in a 12 hour no food setting. Not only do you have a very low pH acid - as low at 2.0 - sitting on unprotected stomach lining and sloshing onto the unlined upper portion, you don't have a saliva being produced and swallowed to help buffer that acide, you don't have anything in the stomach buffering that acid. Meaning, a lower pH.

          And that's going on for 12 hours at a time, every day.

          https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12693529
          "Incubation in valeric acid at pH < or = 7.0 caused a dramatic decrease in mucosal barrier function in the nonglandular portion of the stomach. Changes in barrier function attributable to exposure to valeric acid were associated with histopathologic evidence of cellular swelling in all layers of the nonglandular mucosa. Because of its high lipid solubility, valeric acid penetrates the nonglandular gastric mucosa, resulting in inhibition of sodium transport and cellular swelling. Valeric acid and other VFAs in gastric contents may contribute to the pathogenesis of ulcers in the nonglandular portion of the stomach of horses."


          https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19927578
          "
          This study confirms that gastric ulceration can be prevalent in a group of apparently clinically normal horses, not in intensive work. "

          And those aren't even horses kept without food for half the day, every day.

          https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3680328/
          "The overall prevalence of gastric ulcers in the first group of horses (n = 48) was 59% while in the group of clinically healthy horses (n = 60) the prevalence of gastric lesion was 40%"

          40% of *healthy* horses had ulcers, and 32% of those horses had an ulceration score greater than grade II.

          So yea, barring a medical need to fast a horse, I would NEVER regularly keep them without food for 12 hours. The people who post here trying to figure out how to slow their IR horses with restricted hay intake as much as possible so they aren't without hay for 8 hours at a time twice a day, or 12 hours every night, are 100% doing the right thing by trying to avoid being one of those people.

          ______________________________
          The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET

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          • #25
            Originally posted by PNWjumper View Post

            I have several horses who go 12-14 hours every single day with zero food in front of them without an ulcer to show for it. Don't know what to say. As someone else said, works for some, not for others.

            I would not be bothered by the barn not feeding for 12 hours at a time unless my horse was starting to show signs of ulcers.
            @JB

            I had several horses ( varying breeds) over the 13 years I boarded at 1 barn. 1 horse was there the whole time. The barn fed at 6-7am and again at 4-5 pm. My horses were kept in a box stall with attached paddock.

            All were worked/ ridden 5-6 days a week. Not 1 showed any signs of ulcers. Ever. It was just the norm of boarding in an urban area with no turnout area/ pasture.

            PNWjumper says, it works for some horses , not for others.

            I really think a horse is either predisposed to ulcers or not. We just have to do what we can to make the most of our individual situations.

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            • #26
              Originally posted by JB View Post
              12 hours a day without any food, day after day, WILL cause ulcers to some extent. How big, how much it affects the horse, is then the question. It's not acceptable.
              Nope. Not a fact. Horses with COPD that dont get hay go 12 hours a day without something in their stomach.

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              • #27
                I think you've missed the point that outwardly healthy horses STILL get ulcers.

                Of course it's common in many boarding situations for horses to be going excessive hours without hay. That doesn't make it right, and it doesn't mean horses aren't paying the price.

                Yes, a more anxious horse might show (more) symptoms of having ulcers, being more anxious might mean he gets more and/or more severe ulcers compared to his "whatever" buddy. But the physiology of the stomach and acid doesn't change just because of the nature of the horse.

                The timing of feeding isn't the issue here. When I boarded, hay was put in stalls around 8am, and around 5-6pm in the Winter and 8-9pm in the Summer. However, horses were given enough hay such that they still had something to pick on by dinner, and by the time morning arrived. And if they didn't, they were given a little more at the appropriate feeding.
                ______________________________
                The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET

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                • #28
                  Originally posted by PNWjumper View Post
                  For better or worse, a 10-12 hour break from food is not abnormal in the boarding world.
                  Just because it's normal, doesn't mean it's okay. Isn't there some stat like 90% of racehorses and 60% of sport horses are believed to have ulcers? Don't we maybe think that human management/horse keeping practices are a large cause of that?
                  It's also possible to feed 12 hours apart, but to feed enough (for horses without metabolic conditions) that it lasts until the next feeding. I was fortunate to board at two barns (out of dozens in the area) that fed enough hay for this, before I got my own farm. If I ever had to go back to boarding, knowing what I know now about nutrition, ulcers, and general horse-keeping, I'd never allow my horse to go so long without forage of any kind, whether that means being extremely picky about what barn I chose, or simply supplying my own (all or just additional) hay and slow-feed net. At overnight shows, I throw about 3/4 bale in the stall for her for overnight, just to make sure she doesn't run out.

                  It's also quite possible for horses to have ulcers and not show any outward signs. Many of them are bright-eyed, bright-coated, and bushy-tailed. My retired gelding won't show any symptoms at all until they're bad enough to make him not eat, which has only ever happened once. He is a very stoic guy in general. Then, some are super sensitive. My nervous-type shmareface always looks gorgeous, but she immediately tells me when she's having any tiny flare-up by balking at any leg pressure under saddle. That has happened three times this year, despite her living outside 24/7 with hay and grass available 24/7, so we've gone back to a no-corn-no-molasses feed (I'd tried a feed with a bit of corn. Fail).
                  Custom tack racks!
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                  • #29
                    Originally posted by skrgirl View Post

                    Nope. Not a fact. Horses with COPD that dont get hay go 12 hours a day without something in their stomach.
                    Not sure how this proves they don't have ulcers?

                    It *is not healthy* to go that long, day after day, without something in their stomach.

                    And I know plenty of people with COPD horses who are still feeding appropriate amounts of appropriate forage.
                    ______________________________
                    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET

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                    • #30
                      I feed my two horses a bit of Outlast (Purina) per my vet's suggestion before riding. Appears to be working for us.

                      Comment


                      • #31
                        Alternatively, if a horse does in fact have minor ulcers that cause no discomfort and the horse is otherwise healthy with absolutely no signs or symptoms and the only way it ever would have been known he had ulcers was if he was randomly scoped for absolutely no reason, and the ulcers never get worse or cause problems...then does it REALLY matter?

                        I think if you can prove that all horses that go extended amounts of time with no hay have ulcers, then at some point you have to conclude that while not ideal, the minor ulcers that don't affect the horse at all and don't get any worse, when compared to alternatives that include an overweight horse (which far too many people make their horses overweight, bit that's a different discussion) which can cause more issues, aren't that much of a concern.

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                        • #32
                          Originally posted by JB View Post

                          Not sure how this proves they don't have ulcers?

                          It *is not healthy* to go that long, day after day, without something in their stomach.

                          And I know plenty of people with COPD horses who are still feeding appropriate amounts of appropriate forage.
                          Yes, some horses with mild COPD can be fed forage. Some absolutely can not. They dont all have ulcers. They need a carefully balanced diet to prevent them, but it can be done.

                          Comment


                          • #33
                            I agree with those saying how unacceptable it is that a horse goes 8-12 hours without feed -- but this is a normal feed regime for just about nearly every boarding barn in existence and most boarders don't even realize this is happening...

                            Most barns feed at bring-in (4pm - 6pm) and that is it until the next morning (6-7AM). Some barns offer a night-check where they drop one or two flakes to horses in stalls, around 7-10PM, but that is still more than 8+ hours with no feed.

                            But I am glad to see, people are finally realizing what is normal, is not always acceptable..

                            It's really rare to find a boarding barn that offers stalling and round the clock access to hay. Most barns will use nice marketing terms like "free choice hay", but they really mean the horse gets 2-4 flakes of hay during its PM feeding, then nothing until it is grained/turned out the next morning..

                            Anyway, the point being, while horses don't eat constantly, they should have forage in front of them, 24/7. They should not be going extended periods of time with zero forage in front of them - this is, as another poster said, a recipe for ulcers. "Extended periods of time with no hay", to me, equals four or more hours.

                            OP, it is unlikely you will get the barn to change their normal practice to accommodate you. They have a barn to run, and making exceptions and accommodations cuts into their tightly managed time and resources. What you are describing is industry standard. However, you can vote with your feet and find a barn that is more in-tune with your specific needs.


                            As a boarder, if you must stay, you do have somethings you can do to help your horse while you ride him. I used to be in a similar position when I had one of my horses full-boarded rather than at home. I would keep alfalfa pellets at home, and feed him a quart of the pellets soaked, before each ride - as I also rode in the morning[s] before grain/hay was fed. You likely will have to pay for the pellets yourself, but they are relatively affordable in the scheme of horse things, and go a long way in improving the health of the horse. Many barns that I have been in will allow boarders to keep forage-based bags of feed (not grain) in the boarder's tack trunk or locker. Rodents don't care for alfalfa pellets/timothy hay pellets, and won't make a mess of the reed.



                            AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012

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                            • #34
                              So, some food for thought re: some horses are fine being managed for long periods without forage.

                              I lost a mare this summer and for various reasons we decided to do a necropsy.

                              She was 20 years old, heatlhy, never lame a day in her life, easy keeper, round, shiny coat, calm as can be, not girthy, not irritable about her belly being touched, had her first chiro assessment ever at age 19 when I got her and was proclaimed "probably the loosest, least crooked, most comfortable horse" the chiro had ever put their hands on. She'd lived almost all of her life in a 12 in/12 out stall board scenario with hay fed in meals. I introduced an overnight haynet to her life when I got her because I do that for every horse I own, but by looking at the horse you wouldn't think she "needed" it. In short: the last horse you'd expect to have had ulcers.

                              Well, necropsy results don't lie. She'd clearly had ulcers on and off, likely throughout her life. She had a few that were healing at the time of her death, and obvious signs of old, healed lesions.

                              One example is of course the very definition of anecdotal, but it's still interesting, to me. I would imagine that horses who are kept in turnout situations or free choice in/out probably have lower incidences of ulcers than horses in stalls even if their forage access is very similar (obviously not talking turned out on pasture, here!) - because they'll putter around and maybe nibble the bits of grass by the fenceline, and keep moving. So that's something to consider, as well. Even if they get almost NO actual forage by puttering around that way, they're moving their jaw, chewing a bit, making saliva etc.

                              Hard not to get defensive about these things - no one wants to think they are doing anything but the very best by their horses - but there's always opportunities to learn and think about ways we can improve our management. Even within the boarding environment - a slow feed net, etc.

                              Comment


                              • #35
                                Not to thread-jack, but I'm at a boarding situation similar to what the OP describes and I've been fretting about the long overnight food window as well. I'm used to boarding at places that offer a night feed.

                                Is there a way to make a last-feed of hay last longer for a somewhat easy-keeper, without resorting to hay nets? I don't like nets for what it does to the neck. I could try giving my horse more hay at her last feed (the barn lets us sign up for as many flakes as we want), but I'm worried it'll make her fat. I don't know what else to do though. She doesn't necessarily vacuum up all of her hay when she's feeling more satiated - I think maybe an extra flake at night she will leave aside for a few more hours, and it's worth the extra calories to keep her stomach settled? She has been getting food aggressive and grumpy as hell in her stall, and she wasn't like that when I first got her five months ago - I have a feeling it's because she's getting really hungry in the early morning and she's not used to it.
                                Mr. Sandman
                                sand me a man
                                make him so sandy
                                the sandiest man

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                                • #36
                                  Originally posted by RainWeasley View Post
                                  Alternatively, if a horse does in fact have minor ulcers that cause no discomfort and the horse is otherwise healthy with absolutely no signs or symptoms and the only way it ever would have been known he had ulcers was if he was randomly scoped for absolutely no reason, and the ulcers never get worse or cause problems...then does it REALLY matter?

                                  I think if you can prove that all horses that go extended amounts of time with no hay have ulcers, then at some point you have to conclude that while not ideal, the minor ulcers that don't affect the horse at all and don't get any worse, when compared to alternatives that include an overweight horse (which far too many people make their horses overweight, bit that's a different discussion) which can cause more issues, aren't that much of a concern.
                                  Ulcers are painful - that is a fact. Horses are stoic - another fact. Just because a horse's ulcer doesn't cause his owner pain doesn't mean it isn't an issue to the horse.

                                  Comment


                                  • #37
                                    Originally posted by the sandiest shoes View Post
                                    Not to thread-jack, but I'm at a boarding situation similar to what the OP describes and I've been fretting about the long overnight food window as well. I'm used to boarding at places that offer a night feed.

                                    Is there a way to make a last-feed of hay last longer for a somewhat easy-keeper, without resorting to hay nets? I don't like nets for what it does to the neck. I could try giving my horse more hay at her last feed (the barn lets us sign up for as many flakes as we want), but I'm worried it'll make her fat. I don't know what else to do though. She doesn't necessarily vacuum up all of her hay when she's feeling more satiated - I think maybe an extra flake at night she will leave aside for a few more hours, and it's worth the extra calories to keep her stomach settled? She has been getting food aggressive and grumpy as hell in her stall, and she wasn't like that when I first got her five months ago - I have a feeling it's because she's getting really hungry in the early morning and she's not used to it.
                                    Check out Porta-Grazers.

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