Stomach problems in horses

More and more horses nowadays suffer from stomach problems. Whereas mainly thoroughbreds and sport horses were affected in the past, this now includes more and more leisure horses.

What causes stomach problems?
The horse, originally being a steppe animal, has a relatively small stomach (18 l) designed for constant food intake. However, this is often not properly or sufficiently followed. The composition of the feed ration is also usually not designed to meet a horse’s needs. Care should thus be taken to ensure that the horse’s diet is sufficiently rich in crude fibre, requiring time for the animal to eat it and promoting salivation. Feed that is high in starches and cereals should be avoided. Grain should only be fed after the horse has eaten hay for at least 2 hours. Concentrated feed will then be much more gentle on the horse's stomach.

Next to feed, stress is also a major factor in causing stomach problems. Stress can present in different forms. Horses are often exposed to stressful situations: competitions, changing stables, fighting for hierarchy in the herd or weaning foals. Parasitic infestations, for example bot flies, can also be a cause of stomach problems.

How are stomach problems manifested?
Whether a horse has stomach problems, or in the worst case gastric ulcers, can only be definitively proven through an endoscopic exam. However, there are external signs that may indicate stomach problems. These include:            

  • frequent yawning            
  • champing            
  • loss of appetite and refusing feed            
  • weight loss            
  • dull coat            
  • poor general condition and lessened ability

How can stomach problems be prevented?
Avoid having too much cereal in the feed ration. Most horses are provided ample amounts of concentrated feed. This should be reconsidered! Cereal-free, fibre-rich feed alternatives are just as good for your horse and are considerably more gentle on the digestive tract.

We particularly recommend: AlpenGrün Müsli
AlpenGrün Müsli is a cereal-free, vital substance-rich feed with a base of air-dried fibre. AlpenGrün muesli’s high structure encourages the horse to eat slowly and guarantees sufficient feed salivation. AlpenGrün Müsli is therefore particularly gentle on the stomach and ideal for sensitive horses or horses with stomach problems.

Mucilages, pectins and vital substances are important for a healthy stomach. AlpenGrün Mash is the ideal feed supplement for horses with stomach problems or for the prevention of such ailments. AlpenGrün Mash has prebiotic Prenatura fibre which promotes intestinal health. Linseed and psyllium provide the mucilaginous substances that are important for the mucous membranes of the stomach and intestines. Apple fibre, beetroot and parsnip are rich in pectins and promote healthy digestion. AlpenGrün Mash is a particularly gentle, cereal-free feed and can be fed daily if necessary, for example in the case of acute stomach problems.

Take care that your horse is provided with sufficient crude fibre. The daily amount of base feed should be 1.2 to 1.5 kg per 100 kg of your horse’s target body weight. Take care that the hay is of good quality! 

Avoid long intervals between feeding! Horses should have constant access to roughage. If this is not possible in the stable, the feeding times can be extended through the use of hay nets, for example. Intervals between feeding should not last longer than 4 hours, because otherwise the stomach can be damaged by unbuffered gastric acid.  We recommend our Pre Alpin Compact as a between-meal occupation!

Have you considered hay substitute products? We recommend Pre Alpin Wiesencobs, Pre Alpin Wiesenflakes, Pre Alpin Aspero or our AlpenHeu.
Here you’ll find complete information about our base feed products.

And last but not least, steer clear of stress!
Observe your horse carefully: if you notice that your horse is under pressure, then take pains to provide balance. The more balanced your horse is, the less you’ll have to worry about stomach problems!