I have been working so much with horse digestion issues and ulcers lately and I feel the frustration of my clients about wanting to prevent these problems. Until recently I did not have much to offer other than doing everything possible to support good digestion.
What I have come to understand is that digestive support will only go so far in overcoming a fight or flight, sympathetic nervous system response. In this sympathetic state the horse’s nervous system reacts like he has to run for his life so digestion shuts down and stress hormones are released in the body. This response is not supportive of the healthy gut bacteria. Feeding pre and probiotics and digestive enzymes can allow some digestion but the bacteria won’t survive long term until the horse can shift back into a relaxed state.
In the past I have not been a big supporter of herbs to keep a horse relaxed but I am changing my mind on this. I am coming to believe if we can take the edge off the natural sympathetic reaction horses have to stress we can prevent the long term damage to their digestive tracts. We will still want to use digestive support but it will have more chance of working well if the horse is relaxed.
I have been using Equilite Relax Blend and RelaxHer Blend
on several horses with chronic anxiety and digestive issues. I am pleased that after a several month course on the herbs and digestive support the ulcers resolved and the horses remained quiet and relaxed after the herbs were stopped. Most of these horses are rescue horses and I would not hesitate to put them back on the herbs if they were going to be back under stress.
It is important to know your horse and what kinds of things stress him. It may be weather extremes, trailering, showing, farrier work, training or being separated from friends. I would give nervine types herbs such as those in the Equilite formulas several days before and after such events. Be sure and check that the herbs are not banned if you are showing. Relax blend comes in a valerian free form.
Some horses get stuck in the sympathetic state even after the stressful event has passed and these horses may need herbs more directed at balancing out the stress hormones. These products, such as Eleviv, can also be used before and after stress to gently encourage the horse to come back into balance with his hormones.
Digestive support will always be beneficial but prevention of ulcers by modulating the stress response is equally important. Madalyn
For more horse ulcer resources check these out.