Ulcers

Question:

I am ‘trying’ to  get down to a base diet that will help my horse. He is currently recovering from a nasty case of peritonitis/internal Bastard Strangles. After all the stress and meds, he now has ulcers.
What works? What doesn’t? Do you give any additional supplemental support to the diet?

Answer:

Hmmmmm. Well, not knowing what the diet is I have to presume, knowing what the standard diet is that is recommended, that it consists of supplements, processed bagged “specialized” feed and probably some prescribed ulcer meds along with hay and limited turnout on grass.

First, understanding what ulcers are and how they form in horses and why information that is needed to determine what might be a good diet as well as what might constitute appropriate husbandry for the horse.  There is a good article on just that here: http://www.lunatunesfreestyles.com/horse_ulcers.htm

The author advocates dried cabbage in her article while I’ve always used fresh with little to no adverse reactions. A grad from NHC101 advises his hoof clients to give cabbage and actually had the vet scope bleeding ulcers then re-scope in 3 weeks. The ulcers were healed. Just from giving a handful of shredded cabbage daily to the horse.

My own OTTB had kicked out holes in every wall in the barn. He was out 24/7. Had pretty much free choice hay (alfalfa & timothy was my main choice for hay), lived in a herd life with others, etc. etc.  He lived like a horse (albeit not on hundreds of acres but just on 5 that he shared with several other horses. Point is — he could move as much as he wanted to move.) … but he was a nervous nilly, always was.

The only thing that would keep him comfortable was cabbage. Even the fresh, raw, ‘salads’ that he got in lieu of any processed food, while that soothed his belly somewhat, did not completely heal his ulcers. Once I added cabbage daily the more erratic, spooky behaviors abated and the wall kicking stopped. (He was never locked in a stall but had free access to the main barn and the sheds — he’d stand in a shed or in a stall and kick, kick, kick!)

What I did, and would do again with an ‘ulcery’ horse, would be to follow the directions in the article for husbandry (turnout in herd 24/7 etc), make sure there’s plenty of hay and grass (after all, horses have survived millions of years on grass! But, if no grass, Wheat Grass powder herb is a helpful alternative as are sprouts) and get rid of the processed *everything* … food, supplements, anything that is preserved, processed, artificially enhanced, added to, etc. and feed daily “salad” … just once a day, about a qt or so. The recipe for the base salad is here:  http://www.thepenzancehorse.com/2010/FEEDINGHORSES/feedinghorses.htm and to that individual herbs and other foods can be added (such as the cabbage) for the individual horse.

Hey — its inexpensive, takes just a handful of shredded a day and I’ve seen it work with dozens of ulcer-inflicted horses. And there are studies and trials that back up the efficacy of cabbage in treating  ulcers.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13276831 is just one study but on the right hand side of the page you’ll find related studies and the conclusions of the studies. There are many others to read through.

There’s gotta be ‘something to it’ !

Oh !! And don’t forget the ‘healing power’ of fresh, clean water!  That should be available 24/7 to all horses.

:)