Equine Ulcers

For a little over two months now, I have been dealing with ulcers in Atlas. We are still fighting an uphill battle, but I know there is an ending to this. If you have ever delt with ulcers in a horse, you may want to start drinking.

It began with a reluctance to training. My usual easy going ride, had become a moody, head swinging, taking off with me disaster. I was discouraged, and sad. This wasn’t Atlas. This was a demon child that has possessed my boy. The signs began as mild. He had good and bad days. At first, I thought he had filled out so much his saddle was pinching him. I even trialed a saddle for two weeks. He didn’t show any signs of improvement with this new saddle, so we moved on. He was sound at the trot. Was mostly happy unless I was near his stomach, this didn’t hit me until later. What was this new mysterious woe?

One day my friend Sienna said ulcers. Atlas? Ulcers? There was no way I thought. He has a very easy lifestyle. I had never really known much about ulcers in humans, let alone a horse. After our awful ride and her mention of ulcers, I reluctantly went home and began reading about it. All the signs fit, I felt awful for thinking that he was simply being a jerk. He has the mentality of a 13 year old teenage boy. Lazy, and food oriented are terms often used to describe him. I texted my vet the next day, and with her in agreeance we began a 30-day regiment of Gastrogaurd at a quarter of a tube a day.

About two weeks in he began to show signs of improvement. I couldn’t have been more elated, I had Atlas back. After a week of this drastic improvement, he got worse.

I told my vet he was showing signs again. We decided to scope to have the full picture. We found them in his lower stomach. Evidentially this is thought to be due to environmental stress, diet, or a lifestyle change is needed. This, however, is not proven. Great- insert long sigh and eye roll. He now is on a full tube for thirty days with a 50% chance it may or may not work. Not going to mention the cost of this endeavor.

We have had many ailments in the past. Sutures in his knee, sore back, diagnosed with mild equine asthma. None have compared to this. It has been a very long, very expensive road to travel. I have found that it has not been an easy one either. Each time I think he has improved, my feelings only get hurt to find him in the same state as before. It is difficult to not become discouraged. It has taken many pep talks from my fiancé, friends, and my mom. I had finally hit my breaking point the other day when I realized, what if my horse is a lemon? I cried and cried. Crying is not my normal reaction, you usually have to really hurt my feelings to make me shed a tear over you. I was starting to feel helpless, like I couldn’t do enough for him. I pulled myself together, talked to my good friend Ainsley who reminded me to take it a day at a time. There are no quick solutions when it comes to ulcers.

I decided to take a few days away from the barn. My friend Sienna agreed to give him his Gastrogaurd. I realized I was so stressed that my stress could be only making him feel worse. We seem to be very in tune to each other. I went back today to find my boy happier and seemed very relaxed. It was relieving.

We have another 16 days of treatment. Atlas will also be moving to Atlanta on the 16th. I will stay behind in my small town to finish school. A change is needed for us both. Once he is better he will begin his career in Three Day Eventing with my trainer Miriam. Stay tuned for my next blog about his new journey, and why we made this change.

The more I read about Ulcers the more I learned that this is not an uncommon aliment for horses. These are my tips and findings through my journey:

  • Always scope! I made the mistake of not scoping the first time around. It only costed me more money.
  • High-performance horses have a very high potential of having ulcers at some point in their life. Atlas has most likely had them since his time on the track.
  • Gastro and Ulcergaurd are NOT the same thing. Gastro is meant to treat while, Ulcergaurd is used as a preventative. This can be found directly on their website.
  • People will say buy DAC, use Succeed, Aloe Vera, Smartpak, Gastrobalance. These are not treatments, but preventatives. Gastroguard is the only medicine proven to heal a horse’s ulcers. Please don’t let the know it all horse people tell you otherwise. These may mask your horse’s symptoms temporarily.
  •  Abler sells Omeprazole (the same ingredient in Gastroguard) in a packet form for around $100 a month for a thirty-day supply. These will not treat ulcers, as the concentration is not as high. This will offer a very effective preventative.
  • Riding a horse when they have ulcers can cause them much pain, as the acid will slosh in their stomach. I personally am giving an Atlas the whole month off during his treatment. I would recommend this.
  • Alfalfa is an amazing thing, as it can absorb some of the acid. I bought pellets for Atlas and it truly did help.
  • A routine, good food, abundance of grass, at least twelve-hour turnout, and a good turnout buddy will make for a healthier less stressed horse.
  • Don’t be shocked by your bill. The average tube of Ulcergaurd is 30-34 dollars. The cheapest I found was on Valley Vet who have very fast shipping and are wonderful. You will need your vet’s approval but is a very painless process. You may not need to do a full tube for thirty days!
  • Listen to your horse. Notice the signs, any changes in mood, girthy, doesn’t like to be brushed suddenly. It’s hard to think that your horse could potentially have something wrong, but it is better to catch it sooner rather than later.


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