Behavior of Horses With, Without Gastric Ulcers Compared

A study shows that “ulcerated” horses didn’t seem to look or act significantly different from healthy horses.
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Behavior of Horses With, Without Gastric Ulcers Compared
Ulcerated horses had a tendency to eat a little bit faster when their dinner was late, researchers found. | Photo: The Horse Staff

Think of all the horses you know fairly well. You know how they eat, how they act, how they perform. Now, among those horses, can you pick out the ones with gastric ulcers?

According to Danish equitation scientists, unless you run some investigative exams such as a gastroscopy (an endoscopic examination of the stomach), recognizing an “ulcerated” horse by observation alone might not be as easy a task as previously thought. And that’s true for riders, grooms, breeders–and even veterinarians. Because after a study involving nearly 100 sport horses in a private Danish stud, it became clear that “ulcerated” horses didn’t seem to look or act significantly different from healthy horses, and there was almost no difference in their eating habits.

“There was surprisingly little difference between groups of horses with and without severe gastric ulceration from the same stable, fed equal amounts of starches and hay,” said Jens Malmkvist, PhD, researcher in the animal science department of Aarhus University in Tjele, during his presentation at the 2011 International Society for Equitation Science (ISES) Conference, held Oct. 26-29 in Hooge Mierde, The Netherlands. “All horses were in good body condition and crib-biting was rarely observed.” Specifically, researchers observed only one horse in the entire study (an ulcerated horse) cribbing, he said

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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