Racehorses are incredible athletes, but the strenuous training regime causes ulcers in most horses. Research shows that the prevalence of ulcers in racehorses who are in training is between 85% and 90%. Numbers this drastic show us that horse ulcers are influenced by training, especially those training to become racehorses.
Imagine you are at the track, placing a large bet on a filly you hope will win. The race begins, the filly is in the lead, but the horse behind her is quickly gaining on her. Your heartbeat quickens, your palms are sweating, and your mouth is dry. Obviously, you are experiencing elevated stress levels. Fortunately for you, the stress you feel while at the track is temporary. Now, imagine the stress that each of the horses endure not only during the race, but on a daily basis. Short bouts of stress is a normal and necessary response for a horse, and rarely causes lasting effects. Stress allows a horse to interact with their environment, which is key for their survival. Conversely, chronic stress wreaks havoc on horses, and often results in ulcers.
Training and Travel
Athletes aren’t made overnight. Training a racehorse takes months of daily work. Some horses in training are stabled at the track. These horses are surrounded by constant action…horses coming and going, trainers, owners, grooms, farriers, daily work, and veterinarian checks to name a few of the daily interactions. Even racehorses that aren’t stabled at the track experience these things, in addition to traveling to and from the track for training and racing. Additionally, racehorses usually have very limited turnout to reduce the likelihood of becoming injured. The life of a racehorse is in constant motion, which cultivates a high stress environment. All of the training and travel interrupts their natural rhythms, which is why the prevalence of ulcers is so high in racehorses.
Creating a phenomenal athlete like the racehorse takes an incredible amount of training. The life of a racehorse is hectic. Training schedules, races, and travel cause an environment of chronic stress for the racehorse. We know that stress, especially prolonged stress, is a the prime culprit of equine ulcers.