Researchers know that gastric ulcers are common in horses competing in a variety of disciplines, such as endurance, racing, and show jumping. And recently, a Canadian research team added another discipline to that list: polo.

Heath MacLeod, a veterinary student at the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, in Alberta, Canada, presented the study results in a poster presentation at the 2015 American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Forum, held June 4-6 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Ulcers can develop in both the squamous (top) and glandular (bottom) portions of a horse’s stomach. The lower glandular part of the stomach contains a mucosa with glands that secrete acid and pepsin, which aid in early food digestion. The glands also produce bicarbonate and mucus, which help form a protective barrier over the mucosal surface. This protects the glandular stomach from acid and pepsin’s damaging effects. The squamous region, however, has few defenses and is particularly susceptible to injury (i.e., ulcers) caused by stomach acid.

Many performance horses live in single stalls and are turned out and/or ridden alone or in small groups. Polo horses, on the other hand, often live and exercise in groups, MacLeod said.

“Therefore, ulcer occurrence and risk factors may differ in this performance discipline compared to previously studied populations,” he explained.

MacLeod and colleagues from the University of Calgary and TD Equine Veterinary Group, also in Calgary, examined 63 polo ponies from nine stables via gastroscopy. They also reviewed surveys completed by the horses’ grooms that included informa