Spicy and the Ouchy Tummy

It was a gorgeous Wednesday in October, and I had taken off from work. The leaves were changing and the sky was brilliant blue. Someone, somewhere was playing hookie to hike or take naps or whatever else normal people do with the PTO they've managed to save until the end of the year.

I had a horrible moment of clarity that I am not normal as I crouched with a vet around an iPad, viewing the contents of an Oldenburg's stomach, dry heaving because his stomach had a couple of wriggly bots and the vet was having trouble telling the difference between them and the ulcer lesions.

No, I didn't play hookie to go apple picking. I went to a gastroscopy clinic.

I cannot be the only person who would get excited over this. My dressage trainer pinged me earlier in October that she was hosting a gastroscopy clinic with a local vet practice. It was only $75 including sedation to get a peek in your horse's stomach. Seeing as it's normally $300-500 to get a glimpse of your horse's inside butthole (aka the pyloric region), I was absolutely not going to pass it up.

This is not Spicy's pyloric area. His didn't have any irritation!

Spicy definitely had ulcers. A year ago he got 60 days of my vet's own personal compound of omeprazole. In April he started on the U7. Both these things helped, but unless you've developed x-ray vision the only way to know for sure your horse has ulcers is to look in their stomach. Cessation of ulcer symptoms are not enough proof. If I wanted to be 100% sure Spicy was ulcer free, we had to go in.

Boehringer Ingelheim cleverly partners with local vet practices to host ulcer clinics. There's an education component, low cost scoping, and they conveniently bring the GastroGuard for you to purchase at a discount right there at the clinic. It's really a genius strategy; what better marketing than a live camera showing your horse's angry, red, irritated stomach causing you grief and the medicine is right there to get him on his way to being better? They even helped fill out the paperwork for the rebate for you.

I learned a lot from this clinic. The vet carefully explained everything we were seeing in the real time equine clinic participants. He showed how ensuring your horse has forage will prevent acid from splashing around inside their stomach during riding and other activities. Preventative measures in management including diet and timely administering of Ulcerguard for traveling were also discussed.

This is an actual stomach from a Thoroughbred!
It was way smaller than I expected.

We also looked at a lot of horse stomachs. All grades were represented, from pristine perfect stomachs to those riddled with lesions.

Spicy was the only horse there that didn't have a chain over his nose, and he was so well behaved.
Even though I'm pretty sure he hated me.

Spicy's ulcers were worse than I thought they'd be. The vet was extremely optimistic about his recovery and ability to be ulcer-free once he had finally kicked them. Spicy's biggest issue surrounds trailering. He won't eat away from home, and tends to spend the entire trailer ride staring out the window awaiting his impending death. The vet and I discussed ways to entice him to eat in the trailer, as well as how to appropriately use Ulcerguard.

A shitty picture of a picture but, you get it.

I'm disappointed Spicy still has tummy issues, but it makes me even more grateful that I had the opportunity to take him to the clinic. It also makes me feel optimistic - some of his behavioral issues could very well be due to ulcers bothering him still. We'll see what kind of horse I have after Thanksgiving, but so far I've noticed a difference in his spookiness. Fingers crossed he continues to improve!


  1. You're totally leaving me hanging with some of these! What were the vet's recommendations for getting him to eat on the trailer, and how to dose him for trailering? Also what did the vet say and preventing them from coming back - did he like the U7 or did he say you need to keep forage in front of him or something else? SO JEALOUS AND I WANT YOUR KNOWLEDGE

    1. this post got SO LONG I had to trim stuff out because I didn't want it to be 5 pages!!

      For trailering: Vet recommended alfalfa on the trailer, or giving him soaked alfalfa cubes an hour before loading up. I'm going to try alfalfa in the hay bag and see if he'll eat it. Ulcerguard should be given 24-36 hours before trailering and every day youre 'gone' (so if we're leaving at 8am on saturday, he should get 1/4 tube of ulcer guard at 8am on friday and another before leaving to cover 'that day')

      They didn't say anything about the U7 either way. I wasn't sure if that was because they're kinda GastroGuard purists or not, but I'm going to keep him on it because it's not too expensive and I think it does help. He does have forage in front of him as close to 24/7 as possible and is turned out all the time so thats why the vet was so optimistic about Spicy prognosis long term!

    2. I also came here for the knowledge. 😂 I personally give the alf before loading bc mine can be shit about eating, too. Then they get it in the trailer, too. In case they decide to munch on it.

    3. I know your trailer training is a work in progress and I obviously don't know all the details -- so forgive me if these are things you've already covered. Is there a chance you can start feeding Spicy in the stationary trailer to get him used to the idea of eating in there? Start with treats or a bucket, then move to some alfalfa, so he begins to see the trailer as The Alfalfa Place? You might even be able to benefit from a Pavlovian response here by having him ramp up saliva production in response to just thinking he's getting on the trailer, which (theoretically since I've read in a lot of places that saliva buffers stomach acid?) may help pre-buffer his stomach before trailering, even if he doesn't eat. You could slowly ramp up other simuli of actual trailering -- hooked up with the truck running but not moving, closing the doors, driving slowly around the "block", etc. It would be a ton of work, but if it makes him totally chill about the trailer situation and prevents ulcers, would be worth it maybe?

  2. What a great opportunity! I'm glad you got some confirmation on what you were thinking, and that hopefully he'll be ulcer free soon!

  3. I find this shit to be completely fascinating. What a cool clinic! Hope Spicy starts feeling better soon.

  4. I give Carmen ulcer drugs starting the day before we leave. That morning I feed her some ‘tums’ for horses. It’s not good long term but my vet says every now and then is fine. I also bring her in about 30 minutes before we leave to eat hay. She doesn’t really eat on the trailer either. I switched to a large hole net for the trailer to make it super easy. That seems to help her.

  5. I am so lucky my horse is a hoover and eats most all times unless there is a Satan Pig around ;) So glad you got to do this and have a plan going forward for Spicy. YAY that clinic sounds fascinating but i might have been a bit queasy watching it all!! thank you for sharing it wtih us....

  6. That clinic sounds fantastic! What an incredible opportunity. I live for any chance I get to watch a vet work and explain what they're doing. So glad Spicy's got a good prognosis!


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