The Ulcer Saga, Products & Treatment I Used to Heal My Friesian Horse

Last October my horse Douwe colicked and I was frantic trying to figure out what caused it. He was eating fine, he looked great health wise but he hadn't been feeling good under saddle. We had been training for an indie film that we did at the end of September that involved cantering up hills and through the fields. Not particularly difficult training but later on I learned he was dealing with pain in his kidneys so the exercise and anticipation being ridden caused him to form an ulcer. He had been feeling slightly off in his right hind, nothing that I would consider lame but something I noticed. I thought he might need a chiropractor because his hips do tend to go out sometimes. Later on I learned that lameness in the right hind can come from a stomach ulcer because the pain would be more towards the right hand side.  I have learned a lot about ulcers in that time because Douwe did not show typical symptoms and he is quite stoic and hard to read, like many Friesians. People have asked me what I have done to treat him and I wanted to share some products and resources that might be helpful to someone else.

I didn't want to trailer him to a vet clinic to be scoped because that would require a really long trailer ride which would cause him more stress. The downside was that my equine insurance wouldn't cover the cost of treatment if he wasn't scoped. I was able to get confirmation with a saliva test (Computer Electrodermal Screening) and his blood test also showed signs of a  stomach ulcer.

Douwe showed slight lameness in the right hind, difficulty going forward and bending, poor performance and a depressed attitude. He did not show some of the classic signs which include girthiness, finicky eating or not eating, poor coat or weight loss.

I started changing his diet and put him on Omeprazole to see if that would make him feel better. After three days of GastroGard my vet recommended trying the less expensive version and use that for the rest of the month. The first day I gave him the "cheaper" version he became very bloated and I knew he was in stress. I stayed with him all afternoon and watched him closely. I did not give him any more of the Omeprazole. I could have gone to the GastroGard but it was too expensive for me without the insurance covering it. So I tried Ranitidine which is another ulcer medication. It is less expensive but you need to give the pills 2-3 times a day in the feed instead of a paste that lasts 24 hours. Douwe seemed to respond well to it and I treated him for 6 weeks, tapering him down at the end. I had him retested recently at the end of March and it showed that his stomach ulcer and kidneys were almost healed and that he did not need any more medication.

Natural Treatments & Supplements:
Here are a few products I used in addition to the Ranitidine.

  • Aloe Vera Juice- 1 cup a day from November to February. This was recommended by my chiropractor/vet and she said it helps to calm the stomach. I bought jugs of it at my local health food store but you can also get it at Walmart or a local pharmacy.
  • SmartGut Ultra- started in November and will stay on this supplement from SmartPak. I really like this supplement because it has everything recommended in it. You can read the list of ingredients and purchase it here...
  • Raw Pumpkin Seeds- one handful each day from November to January. I really liked giving him these but they were a little expensive to get from the health food store.
  • Oat Flour- 1/2 cup a day from November to March. Oat flour is very good for the horse's hind gut in case they have an ulcer there instead of the stomach. I purchased this at the local health food store.
  • Alfalfa Pellets- I feed him the pellets instead of grain. I took him off the organic oats I was feeding him and replaced it with the pellets. I also gave him 2 cups of pellets before I rode him to make sure his stomach had food in it to keep the stomach acids from splashing around, which can cause an ulcer.
  • Beet Pulp- We soak beet pulp pellets overnight to feed morning and night. The beet pulp works great in the winter to give them extra water and to mix in the supplements.
  • ProBios- I had him on the extra probiotics while he was getting the medications. You can purchase ProBios at Tractor Supply or any tack store. Good for any horse to help digestion.

One website that I found VERY helpful was Cynthia Collin's webpage on ulcers. She has a very detailed list of other natural supplements you can try and she has links to helpful resources to purchase ulcer medications and some extra precautions you can take. I appreciate the time she took to write out her experience with ulcers and I know that it will be helpful to others as well. Click here to read Cynthia's webpage on ulcers...