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  • Q:

    I have a Thoroughbred racehorse mare currently spelling (resting) here at home. I am treating her for gastric ulcers with omeprazole and will start EquiShure soon to alleviate any hindgut problems. She is fed lucerne (alfalfa) hay daily and has some fresh grass as well. I feed a good-quality total feed, complete with a vitamin and mineral mix, as well as oaten chaff. How should this mare be fed and managed when back in race training to prevent a recurrence of digestive problems and subsequent performance blocks? She is a good-natured mare and shows above-average ability, and we would love to prep her for her next race without this type of drawback occurring?

  • A:

    Once your mare is back in race training, careful management of her routine, environment, and nutrition, including limiting the use of anti-inflammatory drugs and reducing stress, are all important in minimizing the risk of equine gastric ulcer syndrome (EGUS). The concentrate portion of her diet should be fed in small amounts, multiple times a day (3-4 meals per day). Large amounts of cereal grains can be reduced, and fat and fermentable fiber sources (soy oil, rice bran, beet pulp) can be added instead to provide the necessary calories to fuel work.

    Your current hay choice, lucerne or alfalfa, is appropriate and should be offered free-choice throughout the day and night. Alternatively, a mix of lucerne and grass hay is also suitable. Such a mix will help to reduce the amount of protein in her diet, which may become too high with an all-lucerne program, and offer diversity in her forage types that may help to increase the amount of time consuming hay when stalled.

    Researchers have found that offering a small amount of lucerne hay or chaff prior to exercise (30 minutes) can be beneficial in buffering the stomach acid and provides a fibrous mat that may protect the sensitive part of the stomach (nonglandular) from coming into contact with gastric acid. It can be difficult in training situations to offer turnout; however, as much turnout as possible is most effective in reducing the risk of gastric ulcers. When pasture is not available during turnout, offering hay or chaff is necessary to prevent extended periods of time without access to forage.

    Remember, avoiding long periods of time without hay or feed is vital to maintaining digestive tract health and function. 

    As an additional preventive, a digestive supplement such as RiteTrac (available in the United States and from our partner in the United Kingdom), given during and after treatment with anti-ulcer drugs provides gastric buffers and coating agents that protect the stomach lining and neutralize acid. RiteTrac contains EquiShure, a time-released hindgut buffer designed to combat subclinical hindgut acidosis, and supports optimal digestive health. These digestive supplements can help improve a horse’s appetite that may be depressed due to a combination of digestive discomfort and intense training regimes.

    Horses owners in Australia should check out these options for digestive health.

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