Ongoing studies carried out by Merial Health have found that 76% of elite event horses have gastric ulceration, between 98-100% of racehorses in training are effected and 50% of leisure horses also suffer from the problem.

But with this alarmingly high proportion of competition horses being diagnosed with stress-related gastric ulcers, what are the facts and what is just myth?

• If your horse hasn’t had colic it won’t get stomach ulcers

Fiction: Less than 3% of racehorses with ulceration have had colic.

• A sore or cold back could be an indication of gastric ulcers

Fact: Increasingly, gastric ulceration is found in horses that are reported as having back pain. Often, a horse who has a history of pain on girth tightening is found to have gastric ulcers.

• Gastroscopy is a non-invasive procedure

Fact: Scoping for stomach ulcers is not difficult or painful. It takes about 10min
and there is very little discomfort for the horse.

• If my horse is turned out regularly it won’t get ulcers

Fiction: A study carried out on racehorses in New Zealand in 2004 showed that those who were trained from pasture still had a high level of ulceration. Also, turning a horse out with gastric ulcers will not cure him. A dramatic change of routine such as this will lead to increased stress.

Video of gastric ulcers shown by gastrocopy

Video from the equine team at Towcester Veterinary Clinic

For the full article on gastric ulcers, see the current issue of Horse & Hound (7 May, ’09)