Ulcers From Shows and Training

New research indicates that the normal stresses of traveling and showing can cause ulcers and stomach lining changes in as little as five days.

Scott McClure, DVM, PhD, of Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, used 20 privately owned Paint horses with no gastric ulcers for the study. All were housed and managed identically prior to the study.

Ten control horses were maintained on the "home" site with no changes in management, and 10 were transported via trailer for four hours to another site. They were placed individually in stalls, fed twice daily, and exercised twice daily for three days. On the fourth day, they were transported back to the original site. On the fifth day, each horse underwent an endoscopic exam.

McClure found that horses that were transported and housed had a significantly higher incidence of hyperkeratosis (callousing, 8/10 horses) and reddening (6/10 horses) of the gastric mucosa than control horses (1/10 hyperkeratosis and 0/10 reddening). Two control horses and seven transported horses developed gastric ulcers. Of the transported horses, five had grade 1 lesions (least severe) and two had grade 2 lesions. The two control horses with ulcers each had grade 1 lesions.

The study noted, "The findings reported here should increase awareness of how readily gastric ulcers develop in horses under conditions that are typical of recreational use of horses, and thus how they have importance for a much greater population of horses than previously thought."

McClure said, "To me the impressive thing is that it forces us to recognize what we are doing to our horses every day, and that we need to be aware of how some of these seemingly normal changes can be stressors for the horse."

This research was published in the Sept. 1 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

About the Author

Kimberly S. Brown

Kimberly S. Brown was the Publisher/Editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care from June 2008 to March 2010, and she served in various positions at Blood-Horse Publications since 1980.

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