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Keeping Ulcers at Bay


I started giving my thoroughbred SmartGut last winter after she had an ulcer flare up and I had given her UlcerGard first. I kept her on it until summer and have only been giving it to her a couple times a week. She always does well in summer with lots of grass. Her hardest times are the change of seasons with going from grass to hay and the spring before grass is really good. What can I do this fall to avoid another attack? Will putting her back on daily SmartGut be enough or is there a better alternative? – TJ, Pennsylvania

Dear TJ,
What you describe is a common enough scenario and makes perfect sense, so hopefully I can provide some suggestions to get your mare through the upcoming rough patch. When I say your scenario makes sense, I mean that it’s understandable why a horse that’s prone to stomach ulcers would do well in the summer on pasture but struggle to maintain a healthy stomach in the spring and fall.

Unlike humans that only produce stomach acid after a meal, the cells in the horse’s stomach produce acid 24/7, whether there’s food present or not. So when horses are turned out on pasture with their buddies during the long days of summer there’s plenty of fresh, green grass to “soak up” the stomach acid and keep it from sloshing around in the stomach, damaging tissue. However, when the days get shorter and the grass isn’t as plentiful–forcing barns to return to feeding a couple flakes of hay a couple times of day—there are just too many hours in the day when your horse’s stomach is exposed to acid without the benefit of forage being there too.

While it’s not practical to pack up and move each season, following the grazing season around the country, there are some things you can do to help protect your horse during these transitions:

  • Keep forage in front of her all the time—Try using a small-hole hay net filled with grass hay to recreate the healthy grazing experience of “trickle feeding” all day long
  • Feed some alfalfa hay—several studies have shown that alfalfa hay has a protective effect on the stomach, possibly due to its high calcium content
  • Limit grain—concentrates however, tend to provoke ulcers, so complete and balance your mare’s diet with a multi-vitamin or ration balancer instead of grain, if possible

Because stress and exercise play a role in the formation of equine gastric ulcers, consider temporarily cutting back on strenuous work, not hauling to clinics or shows, and postponing preventive care like vaccinations and deworming until after she has adjusted to the change in diet. Of course, illnesses and injuries also create stress, so be sure any medical conditions are diagnosed and treated in a timely manner.

It sounds like your mare may be doing just fine with the occasional use of SmartGut. However, when you know a rough patch is coming up, consider moving up to the next tier of support for the stomach, SmartGut Ultra, and giving it every day. This supplement has been shown in a university study to help maintain stomach health in horses under stress and is a great daily complement to the use of UlcerGard as needed for extra support during particularly stressful times. While many people give UlcerGard before, during, and after events like shows and clinics, it may be best used in your mare during the spring and fall when the barn is changing from pasture to hay and vice versa. Explain the situation to your veterinarian and get his or her advice on whether omeprazole during stressful seasons and SmartGut/SmartGut Ultra in between is a good plan for your mare!



Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA SmartPak Staff Veterinarian and Medical Director Dr. Lydia Gray has earned a Bachelor of Science in agriculture, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and a Master of Arts focusing on interpersonal and organizational communication. After “retiring” from private practice, she put her experience and education to work as the American Association of Equine Practitioner’s first-ever Director of Owner Education. Dr. Gray continues to provide health and nutrition information to horse owners through her position at SmartPak, through publication in more than a dozen general and trade publications, and through presentations around the country. She is the very proud owner of a Trakehner named Newman that she actively competes with in dressage and combined driving. In addition to memberships in the USDF and USEF, Dr. Gray is also a member of the Illinois Dressage and Combined Training Association (IDCTA). She is a USDF “L” Program Graduate and is currently working on her Bronze Medal. Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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4 comments on “Keeping Ulcers at Bay
  1. Alex says:

    Have you tried using SeaBuck? Maybe SmartPak can get in touch with them?

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Alex, thank you for asking! We do not currently offer Sea Buck, however I would definitely encourage you to submit a New Product Request: If you’re looking for a supplement with sea buckthorn, the SmartGut Ultra does contain this particular ingredient to help support stomach health. – Dr. Lydia Gray

  2. sherri hoover says:

    Dr Gray,
    My 22 yr old gelding had a minor colic episode last fall ,probably sand related… required IV fluids, GI tube, pain meds but no surgery.weight about 1050 lbs. He had not had a colic hx prior that I knew of- Ive been his owner for 6 yrs. Healthy boy, easy keeper wt wise, cervical arthritis hx and had neck injections for same… moderate dressage work life. My veterinarian started Assure Guard Gold after the colic episode in Nov last yr. He had been receiving SmartPak Ultra GI pellets for several yrs prior. We have addressed the sand exposure w/hay bag.Still some sand auscultated at times but no more belly pain. Do i really need to feed the recommended 3 containers plus the Assure Guard Gold? Im thinking there more psyllium in the Assure Guard Gold than the Ultra pellets from SP… he’s also getting SP Senior Powder- good multiunit, bugoff ultra SP, Adequate IM q month and Probios biscuits as treats… Im not really concerned about the $$ but seems like Im over supplementing. If I fed less of the Ultra GI pellets it would risk his colicare program but honestly for 22 yrs of age the insurance isn’t that big a deal.

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Thank you for your question, Sherri! We’re sorry to hear about what your gelding went through, but that’s great that you are working hard to support his digestive health!

      While SmartGI Ultra Pellets do provide more comprehensive GI tract support when compared to Assure Guard Gold, and we generally wouldn’t expect any issues with offering these two products together, since they do offer similar types of support, providing both may not be necessary.

      In addition, while both Assure Guard Gold and SmartGI Ultra Pellets include some psyllium, neither product is intended to replace a monthly psyllium sand purge. We’d recommend checking in with your veterinarian to see if a larger serving of psyllium once a month for a week might be beneficial to help encourage sand clearance and whether Assure Guard Gold or SmartGI Ultra Pellets will be the ideal choice for your individual horse.

      Here is an article about sand colic that you may find helpful:

      We do file a report any time we hear of a change in health or behavior experienced while on a product purchased through us so that we may identify and track any trends. We’ll be reaching out to you directly to gather more details about your gelding’s previous colic.

      – Dr. Lydia Gray

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