Horses Update

Blade has had a rough summer.  Being the sensitive bloke he is the move stressed him out.  Happy has been good for him, but uprooting his life and taking him away from his home for 3 years was a lot for him.

It wouldn’t have been so bad if the weather was better either.  First, it was the incessant bugs.  Our property has a pond that drains into a marsh to the right, and a marsh to the left.  Despite our best efforts the horses were constantly bombarded with mosquito, and no fly spray would help.

If it wasn’t the bugs it was the heat.  I have provided the horses with trees and a wonderful corral shelter to give shade.  Would you think they use it?  I even put the hay in the shade.  Instead the two horses stand outside in the middle of the hot 100+ degree sun baking.


To combat the heat and bug stress, I broke down and bought a fly sheet and fly boots, and a great friend of mine gave him a nice new lycra flymask. The though behind it is that the white of the sheet (it was light and breathable) will reflect the sun rays better than his dark skin.  It seems to work well most days.

This summer was also odd in the sense that when it rained it rained for days.  This created mud and both horses suffered from thrush.  There was a slight chance that Blade had the early signs of white line disease.  To knock it out quickly I bought some White Lightning and soaked blade’s hoof…I also used the opportunity to desensitize using a pool noodle.  He stood so nicely despite mom being a crazy.

A while back I updated you might remember (June) my post Putting the Vitals to Use.  Blade had a bit of gas colic from what it seemed like.  Unfortunately it seemed to be the case again in July; same exact symptoms.  I had banamine ready this time after speaking with the vet.  For a few days I monitored Blade and he was better but I couldn’t tell if he was back to normal.  He still wanted to lay down.  After the first night I couldn’t bring myself to withhold food.  His vitals were normal.  I gave him small meals and wet hay.  The vet and I both had a suspicion that perhaps his repeated colic symptoms indicated ulcers.  ULCERS!  AGAIN!

Ulcers have been Blade’s mortal enemy since I’ve owner him.  At our old farm I had a tried and true system to keep them at bay and him comfortable.  To test our theory I got a fresh jar of omeprazole.  Lo and behold Blade’s whole demeanor came back after two days.

Since we finally determined out problem I ran the gamut of my “treatment.” I haven’t yet talked about the digestive system, so let me provide a brief rundown….

The bottom 2/3 of the horse’s stomach is coated with a lining to protect it from stomach acid.  We call this the glandular portion of the stomach.  The upper section is called the esophogeal region has no protection.  The tissue is similar to the esophogus.  When the horse is stressed, works hard, or runs around the acid can build up or splash up onto the non-glandular section of the stomach.  The unprotected tissue becomes irritated and then we see ulcers.

Our stomachs generate acid, and horses can produce up to 1.5 Liters of stomach acid EVERY HOUR.  This is due to the evolution of the horse.  Since horses are designed to graze 23 hours per day they need the acid to process their food.  Saliva is alkaline (opposite of acidic) so by grazing nature intended they use the acid to digest and the saliva helps to buffer the stomach some.

Every hour a horse’s stomach secretes 1.5 liters of stomach acid. 

We see ulcers spoken about a lot lately in social media.  It’s becoming more well known and we are learning that more horses suffer than originally believed.  While it’s not the answer to EVERYTHING it sure is something to consider.  As many as 95% of thoroughbred racehorses will have ulcers at some point in life, and Blade is no exception.

There’s more to learn but let’s get back to what I’ve been doing for Blade.

Omeprazole: This is your Nexium, but horses need a lot more (About 25 Nexium pills should do it?)  I have stopped buying Gastrogard.  I love it. It works.  It’s expensive.  The problem I have with it is that Blade had hindgut ulcers.  Omeprazole doesn’t normally reach the hindgut so after the medication wears off the symptoms come right back.  For that I have heard Abprazole by Abler works wonders; I haven’t tried that yet.

Omeprazole works by inhibiting the proton (acid) pumps.  Picture yourself turning down the faucet.

While doing a full 30 days of omeprazole I have a window of opportunity to attack the ulcers.  Most people stick to just the mediation but I make use of this period to avoid future occurrences.

Papaya:  Yes, the fruit.  I buy a large green fruit, remove the seeds and feed about 1/4 fruit twice a day.  Papaya (especially the underripe) contains an enzyme called papain that actually can heal the stomach.

Alfalfa: Alfalfa has a lot of calcium, like a natural TUMS for your horse.  People use Tums but alfalfa does the same thing.  The calcium buffers the stomach acid to make it less offensive.  Alfalfa is part of Blade’s daily feeding routine and always before riding.

Flaxseed: Fresh ground flaxseed has omegas and anti-inflammatory properties.  This is also part of Blade’s normal daily diet.  It’s high in phosphorus, but the calcium in alfalfa helps to balance it.

Aloe:  Walmart sells aloe by the gallon for a very reasonable price.  The aloe soothes.  I pour this over Blade’s feed.

Probiotic: I purchase a quality probiotic supplement to repopulate the stomach with healthy “bugs” that can process and digest food better.  There are a lot of products but I’ve had success with Uckele’s Absorball.  Read the label and choose a probiotic with several BILLION CFUs…millions don’t do much.  Probios, a popular brand, does not provide enough.  For example Absorball contains 68Billion CFU per scoop.  I also have found that Blade thrives on being on some type of probiotic as maintenance.

After 30 days with the omeprozole I begin to back off some of the others.  No more papaya except as a treat.  When the aloe runs out, it runs out.  I still keep Blade on flax, alfalfa, and probiotic. He does better this way, it’s natural, and it’s cheaper than continuous rounds of treatment.

Since July he has begun to put weight back on and his coat is growing is dark.  He’s almost black again; looking at him I can see the new hair growth.

For the last few months I have been feeling like a failure.  Knowing digestive treatments and dietary changes take time to see results from I have been practicing strained patience.  Starting this week I am beginning to see his progress and I finally like what I see.

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