You know already that a lot of horses have ulcers. Studies show that 80-90% of racehorses and at least 60% of competition horses have them, but do you know what the signs are for equine ulcers? The signs usually start out pretty subtle, and if you know to recognize them you can interrupt the cycle that is slowly starting before it gets out of hand. Unfortunately though, a lot of owners or trainers miss the early signs and don’t act until the horse is question is really showing bad behaviors, like rearing, bucking, and spooking.
So then, what are some of the signs that can help you determine of your horse has ulcers?
1. Weight loss. This is an easy one to tell …simply your horse doesn’t look as healthy as he did before. You can see his hips and ribs sticking out and he just looks unthrifty. This goes hand and hand with…
2. Loss of appetite. All of a sudden your horse no longer cleans up his bowl. He gets increasingly finicky until he is no longer eating at all. Trying different feeds usually doesn’t work, as whatever he is eating is making his stomach hurt. Often hay is left strewn all around the stall as well.
3. Lack of energy. Now your horse is behind your leg in his work when previously he was happy to do his job. He doesn’t go about his day with the same spark he used to have. He is resistant when he is ridden.
4. Changes in his attitude, or irritability. Your normally happy horse isn’t so happy to see you any longer…maybe he is pinning his ears when you come to see him or he is just grouchy.
5. Wood chewing and or cribbing. Maybe your horse never chewed wood and now his stall is looking like a beaver lives there. Or, maybe he started to crib out of the blue. Both of these signs can be caused by a painful digestive system full of ulcers.
6. Dislike of brushing or blanketing. When your horse has ulcers, brushing (especially near his flanks or his belly) is uncomfortable and he may let you know by threatening to bite or fuss when you groom him. They also seem to dislike the blanket being put on.
7. Finally, rearing, spooking and bucking under saddle. Sadly, it often comes down to these extreme signs before trainers or owners might pay attention. At this point the horse just can’t handle the pain any longer and is out of options to let you know.