Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Ulcer Diet & Supplement Program

Today is the day that we will be starting Abbey on the ulcer treatment diet and a supplement from Equine Health and Performance (HP1) that my Vet's technician has used on an eventing horse and that the clinic has recommended to many other clients who have had great success. Will this be the silver bullet I am hoping for? Probably not. I am not being a Debbie Downer, just being realistic about what I am coming to learn about horse ownership, especially with a performance horse that gets ridden five days a week and travels for shows.

Abbey is a prime candidate for ulcers, in my opinion after reading countless articles and opinions online, and applying some common sense to how nature intended horses to live and thrive versus how my horse is kept:
  • Anxious personality
  • Sand paddock for turnout with some hay fed, but no access to pasture-
  • Stalled from 5:00 PM to 9:00 AM each day, some days with no turnout
  • Ridden 4-5 days a week most weeks, sometimes twice a day
  • Ridden on an empty stomach, or one that has consumed only grain and little to no hay within an hour of work when I ride in the evenings
  • Not always fed hay before grain is fed
  • Had a change in routine from being turned out with other mares to solo turnout - change occurred mid-June
  • Injured leg (bone bruising to right rear canon bone) from stress of change in turnout - June
  • Traveling to shows once a month since June
  • Reinjury of same leg in trailer (not sure what happened) - July
  • Administration of Banamine for second injury - July
  • Administration of antibiotics for second injury - July
  • Inconsistent access to forage, not always having access to it 24/7
  • Grass hay with no alfalfa
I really do like my barn, my trainer, and the style of riding and the overall environment where we are, so moving to a new barn is the very last thing I want to consider. There are not any other performance barns in my area that wouldn't require a 35-45 minute drive one way (current drive is 22-25 minutes one way, less from my office). Even if they were closer, there is no way of knowing how the trainer and I would click, what the other people at the barn are like, or how that would all pan out. Spending more time away from home would be detrimental to my marriage, so that really can't happen.

Things I can't change
  • Horse personality/ tendency to be anxious
  • Type of turnout
  • Stalling/turnout routine (herd sour/amount of riding done - better attitude with stall kept and individual turnout)
  • Injury - she's just clumsy
  • Drugs - when she needs them to treat an illness or an injury, I will use Western medicine, but I will talk to the vet about better supporting her during these times with supplements
  • Showing - this is a goal I have for us. It may not be forever the life she has, but it is still something I want to work towards and have in my mind for next summer
Things I can change
  • Diet
  • Access to hay
  • Supplements
I am going to start feeding alfalfa/timothy pellets, beet pulp, and rice bran to Abbey, along with the HP1 supplement that is supposed to be "organic", all natural, and free from fillers and additives that are found in grain that are possibly contributing to the ulcers. Abbey will be taken completely off grain and the grain replaced with one pound of the new mix for each pound of grain. This diet should cost about the same amount as the Tribute Kalm n EZ that she has been on forever. A 40 lb bag of Standlee alfalfa/timothy pellets is about $14 from Tractor Supply, the rice bran pellets (stabilized) Natural Glo 40 lb bag is about $30, and the beet pulp pellets (no molasses added!) is about $15. BO will be purchasing this stuff going forward.

The supplement from EHP will replace the vitamins and minerals that are found in fortified grain so she is still getting what her body needs. This supplement is certainly not cheap, at $75 per month, or $900 for the year. But that is the cost of one month of treatment with GastroGard (we are using the less expensive AbPrazole, but that is still a few hundred bucks each time).

I am also going to purchase a second NibbleNet, the Double Nibble 1 and 1.25 inch openings to hang in her stall with the first one I bought this past winter when she had her first bout of ulcers. My reason for doing this is so that hopefully she can make it through the night and the morning always having access to some hay. That will cost me about $130 to order, and the first one has held up amazingly well, so I should not have to replace it any time soon.

She still gets sand clear, which is about $20 a month for 7 days of treatment, and she won't get it once there is snow on the ground in a few months (ugh).

I have a detailed instruction sheet I made up with how to measure the correct amounts of feed for the transition from old grain to new program, and I hope my trainer will tolerate my extreme micromanagement of this process. It helps me cope with being stressed to write it down and see it on paper. That, and hopefully it will help assure that everyone feeding her will feed the same way.

This year has really stretched me in a lot of ways: as a rider, a horsewoman, a person with a budget, a wife, a friend, and a person in general.

Next post is all about the Benjamin's.


  1. Managing ulcers can be a huge challenge, and it sounds like your changes in diet are a good plan. I don't know if you have access to regular alfalfa hay, but it worked better for my ulcer-prone guy than the pellets (of course, every horse is different lol!). I would also consider adding a magnesium supplement to her diet, if she doesn't already have one. A lot of horses are magnesium-poor, and alfalfa (in any form) will make it worse due to the Mg-Ca ratio. I used Quiessence and noticed a pretty dramatic change in comfort and attitude, and it's pretty cheap. And finally, you might ask your vet about giving Abbey human-grade Ranitidine when you're hauling or at shows. I got mine for cheap at Costco, and it definitely helped for those extra-stress times.

    Best of luck! Your Abbey is gorgeous!

    1. Dang - didn't hit reply on my actual reply - but it's in the comment below :)

  2. Hi jenj! Thanks for the comment, and for the well-wishes :) Ulcers are a huge challenge and one that seems never-ending. She is supposed to be getting some alfalfa in with her other grass hay, but I am not sure how consistent that is and I try to pick my battles on care since I don't have her at home. She is getting some stabilized rice bran, which has magnesium in it, and according to my research that should be good with the amount of calcium she is getting, I hope! I will keep the Quiessence in mind though, as it seems like it might be good to add to our showing regimen, but I know that having the right Ca-Mg balance is important. She doesn't seem to need the calmative as much as she used to - she's finally growing up! I will for sure ask about the Ranitidine, I have a few tubes of the GastroGard left, but after those are gone a less-expensive option would be welcome. Take care and enjoy the fall :)