You never gallop a horse to make him fit, you make him fit to gallop!
Frank Bryan 1899 - 1963
Our Grandfathers wise words have always guided me through my entire lifetime working within the horse industry as a breeder, producer and tutor. As a tutor I have always tried to impress upon people the importance of FULL spectrum care.
For example, a poorly shod horse, an ill fitting saddle, lack of correct dental care or an unbalanced/over horsed rider all contribute longer term to unnecessary wear and tear on our equine partners.
I started researching our feed concept more out of necessity than anything else. I was looking for a cost effective method to have a more healthy, happy horse for ourselves and our clients.
With advice from industry professionals I started having small batches of our products contract manufactured for our own use only. Now, considering the fact that Chinese medicine states that our Diet is our medicine chest, people arriving to our farm commented on how well our horses looked and asked for some of our product to try on their own horses at home. Basically, they all had the same thing to say and that was that this concept is probably one of the World's best kept secrets and needs to be launched on the open market. Given the fact that I am not getting any younger and am of limited mobility, the reality was that in order for me to remain active in the horse industry indefinitely, I now needed to adapt and put all of my knowledge to good use.
Countless studies have been carried out and several academic papers published on the subject in question.
The younger generation has the benefit of being able to carry out sufficient research on line which removes all doubt as to where the problem lies.
The following is written from a non-academic perspective and is thought of as an overview and an assistance to ordinary horse owners in understanding how ulcers come about.
Studies indicate that 80% plus of Racehorses have stomach ulcers. Field kept horses and those on forage-based diets show practically no incidence at all.
Horses are foragers by nature, they produce gastric acid 24/7 (Humans only at meal time) and the chewing process (round the clock) keeps the gastric acid at a tolerable level.
Not all horses show signs of the condition. Some fail to thrive, perform poorly, grow slowly, fail to reach the genetic potential and other vague or difficult to diagnose syndromes.
Do not Delay, get veterinary assistance a.s.a.p. as the consequences could be life threatening.
Amongst the causes are reduced stomach protection performance (foals with diarrhea are particularly at risk) stress and inappropriate diet. The high acid levels from “Modern feeding Practices” which are far riskier than a forage-based diet.
For Millions of years the horse grazed and then we came along and started messing things up. The horse spends 16 hours or so per day in the wild walking up to 20Km (12 miles approx.) searching for food.
In the last 50+ years since the introduction of sweet/complete feeds, the occurrence of gastric issues, colic etc., has risen because of the horse’s inability to digest all the strange new ingredients.
So, we see a connection, Stomach acid is buffered by the chewing process (bicarbonate and mucus content), Lubricating food, not choking the horse and is sent on its way to complete the process.
Just as an example, one kilo of Hay is chewed about 3000 times, producing some 4 liters of saliva. Grain needs only 1/3 the effort, producing only 2 liters of saliva. NOW DO YOU SEE?
There are many options on management and treatment as your veterinary surgeon will advise, however if we look at preventative measures, they include,
· Avoid prolonged fasting.
· Ad lib forage (except for laminitis /Cushing’s prone, native ponies, Draft typeset.)
· Feed dishes on the floor as it aids digestion, you don’t see them in the wild with their heads in the clouds like a giraffe except for on bare paddocks.
· “Little and Often” is how to feed. The old-fashioned way.
· Because of the high risk and associated expense of recurrence, proper management procedures are needed especially when treatment ends and the work resumes. It is a particularly risky time.