Performance horses have a special set of needs that set them apart from other horses. Not only do they have greater physical demands being placed on them but they are also exposed to a large number of stressors, including physical, environmental, and mental.
Stress can cause pH fluctuations in the gut of a horse as more acid is produced and pushed up into the first portion of the stomach. Repeatedly exposing the stomach lining to this high level of acidity can, over time, cause ulcers. Compounded with intermittent or chronic dehydration in horses that have an aversion to new water sources, this can create a long-term issue. In general, it creates discomfort that can result in a loss of focus and performance. Neutralizing stomach acid before any potentially stressful event (hauling, performing, practice) can keep ulcers at bay and guard against the loss of beneficial gut flora.
Keep Horses Healthy While Traveling
Performance horses generally travel large distances to the destination where they’ll showcase their abilities. However, this traveling and the lack of regular feed and water during transport can cause a great deal of stress for the horse.
An excellent and proven way to reduce stress for performance horses is to provide them with an all-natural supplement that can buffer excess gastric acid and help protect the delicate gut tissues.
A supplement like Zesterra® offers support to performance horses during times of stress, and it’s effective for preventing and treating ulcers in horses naturally.
Reducing Stress for Performance Horses
When moving a horse from its home base to its final destination, it can be stressed by:
- The trip in a trailer to the show destination
- The separation from other horses in its band or stable
- The disruption of feeding that forces the horse to fast for many hours
- The need to adapt to the environment in the new location
These stressors can lead to the production of an excessive amount of adrenaline and cortisol. Both of these stress hormones, when present in excess, can contribute to stomach acid production and a suppressed immune system.
When a horse is stressed, there may be behavioral changes. They may be more irritable and kick, bite, buck, paw the ground, tail-swish, crib, or attempt to run away from confinement.
Prevents Equine Ulcers
Many performance horses experience gastric ulcers during their lifetime. Other equine experts and researchers also support this claim by stating that 60 percent of performance horses including jumpers and the Western performance horses have gastric ulcers during their careers.
Ulcers in horses are commonly caused by the production of stomach acid, which is continually secreted even when the horse isn’t eating. Ulcers also increase among performance horses because they have to keep exercising and performing for long hours without adequate time to eat and put more forage into their stomachs.
Other causes of ulcers in performance horses include:
- Eating feed such hay cubes and concentrates that doesn’t permit the horse to chew for a long time and produce enough saliva in the mouth. Adequate saliva aids in ulcer prevention.
- Increased blood flow to the stomach, which is primarily caused by stress.
- Excessive use of anti-inflammatory medications.
If at all possible, it is best to prevent the formation of ulcers in your horse. Gastric ulcers, which usually occur in the upper section of the horse’s stomach, can be prevented by giving it Zesterra®. This supplement contains ingredients that can neutralize stomach acid and balance the pH in the stomach. It also promotes the growth of healthy bacteria that aid in digestion.
Reduce Hauling Risks
Equine transportation is linked with many health disorders that can cause both economic and emotional loses for performance horses and their owners. During long travel, stressors that can damage the horse’s health include:
- Isolation from other horses
- Confinement in a compartment
- The vibration of the road and vehicle used for transportation
- Alteration of the horse’s sense of balance
- Rapid changes in weather
- Unusual or unexpected noises
When these stressors are present, the horse will secrete a high amount of adrenaline. This, in turn, causes an accelerated heart rate that can lead to frequent defecation and sweating.
In addition, the stressors can cause the release of cortisol, which works against the immune system and increases the risk of developing diseases like respiratory infections and shipping fever.
Boost the Immune System
A horse’s immune system helps fight disease and maintain health, but stress induced by travel conditions and performing can weaken the immune system and make the horse susceptible to a variety of diseases. Common signs that a horse’s immune system has been compromised include:
- Elevated cortisol levels
- Weight loss
- Decreased appetite
In a study to assess the effect of travel on senior horses (they are more susceptible to changes in their immune system), researchers discovered that the inflammatory mediators produced by lymphocytes reduced within 15 minutes after the trip began.
They also found that cortisol levels rose 15 minutes into the trip while the body weight of the horse decreased on the third day after reaching the destination.
A weakened immune system can lead to a range of diseases and complications, including laminitis, diarrhea, colic, pneumonia, shipping fever and loss of appetite.
Increase Appetite and Feed Utilization
One of the most common adverse effects of travel on horses is their reduced desire to eat both during and after the journey. Ideally, a well-paced trip with stops every three hours should be a goal for hauling. It’s helpful for the horses to be unloaded, then permitted to eat and drink.
Unfortunately, in many cases, especially when transporting horses long distances by road or via air, this is simply not possible. As a result, they won’t be able to eat normally and may start developing gastric ulcers. If left untreated, the ulcers will worsen and prevent proper consumption and utilization of feed. This ultimately leads to weight loss and poor performance.
The best way to prevent disruptions in feed and water consumption due to hauling is to provide each horse with the recommended dose of Zesterra® before, during and after the trip. Horses respond by eating and drinking more readily and showing fewer signs of discomfort and stress.