Horse Health Q&A: Equine Ulcers - Signs, Symptoms & Natural Remedies for Prevention & Treatment
What Causes Ulcers in Horses?
Over the past decade, many scientists and veterinarians have studied the multiple causes of ulcers in horses, which can affect horses of all ages - including normal healthy foals. The findings have commonly concluded that ulcers are mainly the result of “un-natural” management practices including:
- Un-natural feeding practices
- Un-natural concentrated bag feeds
- The use of drugs to treat many disorders, including long term use of NSAIDs for pain, or even antibiotics
- Stressful showing schedules
- Showing or training horses having no food – or the wrong kind of food - in their stomach
Tips for Natural Ulcer Prevention
The best ulcer prevention tip is to simply allow your horse to be a horse. Try to implement as many of the following prevention tips as possible. Your horse will thank you.
- Allow play time, including maximum turn out time with other horses
- Limit the use of drugs, especially Bute and Banamine, unless absolutely necessary
- Use natural remedies or herbs for pain control when possible
- Avoid allopathic ulcer drugs as much as possible. They change the natural pH of the horse's digestive tract
- Feed a more natural diet, including having hay in front of your horse 24/7. Use of slow feeders allows the horse to eat small amounts often, which prevents digestive acids from burning their stomachs
- Minimize stress, drugs, vaccinations, and toxins (especially chemical wormers and fly sprays)
- If possible, also filter the horse's water
- Always make sure your horse has just eaten before you train or show
Signs & Symptoms – How Can I Tell if My Horse Might Have Ulcers?
Although some of the following could also be general signs for other medical conditions, you may want to consider ulcers if you see any of these signs or symptoms,
Ulcer Signs & Symptoms for Foals
- Often interrupt nursing
- Grind their teeth
- Produce excess saliva
- May have diarrhea
- May exhibit signs of intermittent “colic-like” symptoms, such as rolling onto their back
Ulcer Signs & Symptoms for Mature & Older Horses
- Poor appetite, when before it may have been robust
- Starting to have picky eating habits
- Poor body condition or weight loss
- Low grade non-specific colic
- Changes in attitude or performance
- Back pain - or pain in the area of the cinch/girth, including pinning ears when being saddled
- Brown gastric reflux fluid, which may also indicate the presence of bleeding ulcers
I Think My Horse is Showing Signs. How Will My Vet Diagnose & Treat an Ulcer?
Vets have diagnostic equipment where they can “scope” the horse from each “end” as well as internally all the way through. Thankfully, there are new fecal tests your vet can perform prior to scoping to determine if it is even indicated. Fecal testing is less stressful for your horse and less expensive for you.
If your horse does have to be scoped, the procedure is usually done at a vet hospital with an overnight stay to ensure your horse’s intestinal tract is empty and no food or water has been given for 12 hours prior.
When ulcers are found, most vets treat horses with Ulcer Guard or Gastro Guard for 1 to 2 months and it can run up to $1,200 per month to treat a horse without guarantee of cure. This conventional treatment also changes the pH of your horse's digestive tract and kills the beneficial bacteria necessary for proper digestion.
What Do You Recommend Feeding a Horse to Help Prevent Ulcers?
- If possible, give your horse a slow feeder with hay in front of them all the time. This mimics horses' natural grazing behavior and can help to prevent ulcers in the first place. We are fans of the Hay Pillow slow feeder bags and nets - and use them with our own horses.
- Horses who may have ulcers or are prone to ulcers do best with bucket feed that has fat (rice bran meal and flax), beet pulp (Speedi Beet) and soaked hay pellets along with a buffer like CA-Mg, which Earth Song Ranch offers.
- What we have found over the last 10+ years is that your horse may need to avoid “bag” feed, such as Purina, Nutrena, or Triple Crown as there are too many chemicals and additives that can upset the already delicate digestive health of these horses. Instead, use soaked hay pellets like Timothy as a carrier for herbs and vitamins. When this change is made, we have found the horses improve greatly and better maintain their gut health.
- I also strongly recommend EquineZyme Plus with probiotics to keep your horses gut healthy and contains colostrum which will help soothe the acids in the stomach. (See below about using herbs to help prevent and/or support).
- Always make sure that your horse has just eaten before you train or show.
Listen Now: Jessica Lynn's interview on Fox's The Horse Talk Show, Holistic Horse segment, where she talks about how to handle ulcers the natural way.
Are there Herbs that Can Help Prevent Ulcers and/or Relieve the Pain of Ulcers?
Yes. The number one herb to help heal - as well as to relieve some of the pain of - digestive ulcers is Slippery Elm.
Alone it is a good choice, as it coats the intestinal tract allowing it a chance to heal. You can also add Aloe Vera gel with that in a bucket feed. This combination can give a horse with active ulcers some relief as feed stuffs digest.
In helping many horses over the years, I have found a specific combination of several herbs that work synergistically together to help a horse who has ulcers or is prone to ulcers. We at Earth Song Ranch recommend our Tummy Tamer blend, and it has been a favorite natural approach to helping horses with ulcers for 12+ years.
Are there Herbal Blends that Can Be Used for Ulcer Prevention and Healing?
Yes. There are a couple of companies besides Earth Song Ranch who do herbal blends for ulcers now.
Our Tummy Tamer blend includes powdered aloe vera leaf, Slippery Elm, and other soothing and anti-inflammatory herbs. Over the 12+ years we've produced Tummy Tamer, we've had a lot of happy horse owners report that they were able to take their horse off of the veterinary meds and save a lot of money by following our ulcer advice. In fact, Tummy Tamer has become one of our best sellers over the years as horse owners and guardians seek out alternative, natural approaches.
What is in the Tummy Tamer Ulcer Support Blend?
Tummy Tamer blends a rich yeast culture with the herbs because it has probiotics and a small amount of rice bran. To that we add:
- Slippery Elm to help coat the digestive tract
- Fenugreek to sooth the gastric disorders
- Ginger to soothe any of the nausea a horse may feel
- Licorice Root, which reduces gastric acid secretions and gastric inflammatory conditions
- Marshmallow for gastric ulcerations and colitis type symptoms
- Peppermint and Spearmint, which are anti-spasmodic and natural digestive aides to soothe and relax the digestive tract
- Chamomile and Valerian to calm a stressed horse and help with any stomach cramping
- Yarrow flowers, fennel and fenugreek, lemon balm and some white willow bark
Do You Offer A Ulcer Support Blend for Show Horses?
Yes! We also offer a special Tummy Tamer Show blend for customers who show their horses. Tummy Tamer Show Formula leaves out the Valerian, Chamomile or other herbs that might be tested at a competition.
The Ulcer 911 Support Kit
Earth Song Ranch offers a package of the products we recommend here called Ulcers 911 Support Kit. It contains Tummy Tamer, EquineZyme Plus, and CA-Mg Buffer - all at a 27% savings over purchasing the products individually. Two of the products come with free shipping so there is only shipping on Tummy Tamer!
The information provided here is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from a veterinarian or other health care professional, and should not be used for diagnosis or treatment of any health problem or for prescription of any medication or other treatment. A health care professional should be consulted before starting any diet or supplementation program, before administering any medication, alternative, herbal blends et al or if your horse has a health problem. Do not discontinue any other medical treatments without first consulting your health care professional. © Copyright 2023. Earth Song Ranch. All rights reserved.
Further Reading - Published Articles by Earth Song Ranch
- Podcast - Handling Ulcers the Natural Way - The Horse Talk Show with Louisa Barton
- Equine Ulcers & Gastrointestinal Disorders - Natural Horse Talk
- Healthy Gut, Healthy Horse: How Probiotics Help - Equine Wellness Magazine
- Pro-Biotics: Bugs You Do Want in Your Horse’s Life - Equine Wellness Magazine
- The Zymes - What they Do, What they Contain & Why You Should Use them
Questions? We're Here to Help
We know choosing the right natural supplement for your horse can seem daunting. Earth Song Ranch is dedicated to educating our customers because we want you to make the best choice for your horse and your unique needs.
You'll find a variety of information in our published articles and archived newsletters here on our site. But sometimes, you just need to talk a situation out. For those times, we offer private phone consultations.
Ulcer Prevention & Diet Consultations
We offer diet and nutritional consulting for those of you supporting or suspecting a horse with ulcers - or looking to prevent ulcers from developing. Consultations are available in the following increments.
- 30 minutes - $75
- 60 minutes - $125
Go here to purchase a phone consultation.
Ulcer 911 Support Kit
An Affordable, Natural Herbal Probiotic, Buffered Ulcer Support Alternative in a Cost-Saving Kit
In 2016, I purchased a project horse. He was already a high level dressage horse showing very well. At the beginning of 2017 he started to show signs of being uncomfortable. When being groomed or saddled, if anything would touch his sides, he would bite the air and try to kick the person closest to him.
Jessica Lynn, of Earth Song Ranch, has always been my go to for natural alternatives, so I phoned her and she suggested doing 2 weeks of gastro guard while she blended some Tummy Tamer and sent a bucket of CA-Mg Buffer, and we made a small adjustment in his diet as well. I am here to tell you, that my boy is fine and doing great and in training, we continue him on with the Ca-Mg Buffer and the Tummy Tamer Show formula and could not be any happier with the results!
We sing Jessica’s praises from the barn tops! Thank you so much Earth Song Ranch for your awesome and wonderful herbal blends!
— A.L., Wellington, FL
"I've been ordering Tummy Tamer and Equine Zyme for the last year and a half from you. My mare I bought it for was diagnosed with Grade 4 Ulcers even after months of following a strict Regimen from the vet using Ulcer Guard (Omeprozole). I'm happy to say she is now Ulcer Free! I have before and after pictures from when she got scoped if you would like to see them. I have a pretty big following on this mare "Maisey" due to her being a top competitor in barrel racing. I've gotten 30+ messages on how I healed her and even getting phone calls from vets. Just wanted to share our success story! Thank you for providing such great supplements! I'm exciting to get her back winning again. Your supplements (herbs) have been a game changer for my program and I even have been using it for preventative purposes."
– Karlee & Maisey
"If it wasn’t for Earth Song Ranch, I would not have a happy mare. The journey started when Ena, my 6 year old SWB mare, developed ulcers every Spring for 3 years. I would go through the standard protocol-scoping, treatment, scoping-only for them to return. At wits end, Jessica’s name was given to me and the rest is history. Earth Song Ranch knew exactly what she needed and put her on Equine-Zyme Plus, Tummy Tamer, CA-MG Buffer and natural whole grain feed. It wasn’t long before she was free of ulcers and back to her happy self, no more scopes needed. Other products I use are nosodes (no shots Spring or Fall), the Natural Herbal Wormer (parasite free for 3 years now) and ImmuBiome (mushrooms) for Lean Muscle and Joint Recovery. We are now second level and training third in Dressage. Thank You Jessica and Earth Song Ranch."
– Suzanne G & Ena
"I love the Earth Song Ranch digestive products for ulcers. In my opinion the supplements are the best and freshest and I've seen the most results with my horses."
– Justina C.B.
We offer a 15-day return policy on our products. Some exclusions apply. Please see our return policy for details.
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About the Author
Jessica Lynn writes articles for various national and international horse publications. She is the owner of Earth Song Ranch, an herbal feed additive, pre/probiotic & herbal supplement manufacturer based in Southern California. As a life-long equestrian and professional animal nutritionist, homeopath, herbalist and animal intuitive, Jessica uses her knowledge to formulate herbal blends, probiotics and digestive enzymes for equine immune health. She has been involved in alternative health care, herbs, homeopathy, osteopathy and nutrition for animals and humans for over 6 decades.