Ulcer Supplements, does your horse need one?

We all have heard the stats, most performance horses suffer from ulcers at one point in their lives. A lot of pleasure horses suffer from them too, it’s just something that’s part of horse ownership that we all worry about it. So what do you need to look for and when do you need to worry?

Symptoms include:

  • Girthiness
  • Attitude change
  • Poor appetite/ hay soaking
  • Dullness
  • Reluctance to work/train
  • Weight loss
  • Dull coat
  • Intermittent colic (especially after eating)

Some of these symptoms are broad and can indicate other issues. If you see some of these symptoms and it’s creating major discomfort for your horse, call your vet. There are treatments available to get them as comfortable as possible, as quick as possible. It’s also important to note that stress triggers, that can cause ulcer flairs, can be as simple as moving pastures/stalls, a farrier visit, or a slight change of diet, so definitely be aware of any changes if you see these symptoms.

So what if your horse is showing minor symptoms or just want to help prevent ulcers? Well I was in the same boat. El showed a little “girthiness” or discomfort while saddling but nothing major and nothing about her performance screamed ulcers to me, but I was still concerned. So I researched different supplements and through some instagram interactions and research through smartpak and valleyvet.com, I was introduced to the Vitalize Equine supplement line, specifically Alimend. With great online reviews and well researched ingredients, I was comfortable doing a 60 day trial period with Miss El.

I went ahead and got the Alimend 1/2 gallon jug, advertised as a 60 day supply, and the recovery gel, to give a whole tube before stressful trailering, a show, or both. Alimend arrived with a pump and I made sure to store both supplements in a semi-climate controlled room so that the active ingredients wouldn’t be affected by extreme heat or cold. The instructions for Alimend states that you give 1 pump 2x /day for maintenance and 2 pumps 2x/day during stressful events.

El was given the recommended maintenance dose of Alimend for the first few weeks. The helpful people at Vitalize mentioned that some horses can see improvement of symptoms as fast as 21 days, so I was anxiously waiting to see if I saw any improvement.

At 21 days, I saw minimal changes. The kind of minimal changes that makes you wonder if there are actual changes, or if you were just seeing what you wanted to see. She seemed to decrease her irritability at saddling and she wasn’t chewing at the cross ties as much. So… I waited a little longer. At 30 days, I saw drastic improvement in her girthiness. She still chewed at the cross ties 20% of the time, but her irritability was gone. Then by 60 days, no more chewing at the cross ties, no more irritability (with the exception of her heat cycle), and she starting doing her tongue chewing (a sign of boredom). I am so thrilled that my horse is bored during saddling, showing me that cinching her up no longer bothers her!

During her trial of Alimend, I did increase her Alimend dose one day before a show, during a show, and one day after a show. I love that I have this flexibility with this supplement so I can make sure El is taken care of during stressful times. I also found that the 1/2 gallon of Alimend, even with a few increases in doses, easily lasted the advertised 60 days, I was thoroughly impressed with the value.

As for the recovery gel, I love the ability to give El a little something before trailering. I did notice that it made her stool loose (just for one bowel movement, then it went back to normal) but as long as she kept hydrated, I wasn’t too worried about that. I do think it helped manage any type of flair up caused by trailering to a show. If she goes on a longer trailer ride (>3 hours), I will probably give her the recovery gel an hour or two before or after the trailer ride that way she has access to water during that loose stool but also be protected during the trailer ride. As a note, this could be a unique thing to her, and not representative of all horses, but just something to look out for when you use it.

A lengthy post just to say, I am so glad that I have El on Alimend with the occasional recovery gel. So… do I recommend an ulcer supplement for you? Well, that depends on what your doing with your horse. If they don’t have a history of ulcers and have a pretty stress free life like a pasture pet or very occasional riding, then an ulcer supplement may not be necessary. But, if your horse has a history of ulcers, is a performance horse, trailers a lot, goes to shows/events, then I would definitely recommend a supplement to help keep their gut in good shape and prevent ulcers. I will continue keeping El on Alimend and the occasional recovery gel knowing that it helped her so much in just 30-60 days. It gives me great comfort knowing she feels her best and can perform at her best.

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