A Preliminary Report of Gastric Ulcers in 30 American Endurance Horses
edited by Sharon May-Davis

Earlier this year (2004)

, The Veterinary Journal published a scientific article on the prevalence of gastric ulcers in endurance horses. It incorporated an editorial that focused on the issues at stake and together, an informative discussion was put forth.

A gastric endoscopy was performed at the end of a 50klm and 80klm ride on 30 horses and the results are shown in the table. Overall, it was found that 67% of the horses had gastric ulcers. Only one horse was stabled full time, which left 29 horses on pasture or with access to a stall. Furthermore, these horses had access to adlib hay or grass for most of the day.

Even with the small sample size of 30 horses, the fact that 20 had gastric ulcers was quite unexpected. Commonsense tells us that ulcers will affect the health and well being of a horse and as humans continue to train and influence their feeding regime, endurance horses will continue to be compromised.

The causes associated with the high incidence of gastric ulcers in this study were discussed as being; long training hours, feeding high grain diets and stressors related to competition and transportation. It was further noted that trotting for long hours exposed the unprotected part of the stomach to hydrochloric acid and as a result, ulcers formed.

The secretion of hydrochloric acid is increased by many factors, but in endurance horses feeding and strenuous exercise are the most influential. In addition, increased intra-abdominal pressure during exercise causes gastric compression, which pushes acidic contents into the top regions of the stomach. Consequently, it is possible that prolonged exercise in endurance horses may predispose them to an increase in the production and formation of ulcers. Therefore, it is with hope that this study will stimulate further research into this important area of endurance horse welfare.


No Ulcer
Ulcer
Gender
Female
1
5

Male
9
15
Breed
Pure Bred
7
12

Other
3
8
Colic
Yes
1
0

No
9
20
Diarrhoea
Yes
1
1

No
9
19
Appetite
Excellent
3
6

Fair
0
5

Good
7
9
NSAID
Yes
1
2

No
2
5
Grain
Yes
8
15

No
2
5
Lameness
Yes
0
1

No
10
19
Performance
Above
5
4

As Expected
4
15
Disposition
Nervous
1
5

Not Nervous
9
15
Housing
Pasture
5
16

Access to Stall
3
4
Body Condition
Heavy
1
0

Normal
7
19

Thin
2
1
Klms run
50 klm
2
7

80 klm
8
13

 

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