Equine Gastric Ulcers… and Sage.

I’ll call her Sage.

Sage was a thoroughbred mare with classic elegance. A solid bay with a long neck and pointy withers. She was very feminine, not too tall, but she was proud.

That’s who she was born to be -but what she looked like was very different. She was in a small stall the first time I saw her -showing every known ulcer symptom and a few that were all her own. This mare was not stoic, her pain was obvious and hard. Anyone could tell Sage had ulcers, she was screaming for help.

Sage had been donated to a riding program for retraining after repeatedly injuring her previous owner. Ulcers can make horses act crazy, no surprise she was in trouble under saddle.

She was not mine to train, she was not mine to help. Sage was none of my business.

I bit my tongue for a while. When I did speak to her trainer in private she didn’t disagree with my assessment. Over the next few weeks Sage looked just as uncomfortable as the first day, a combination of dull and tense. I was told the ulcers were not being treated, but she was under saddle with a new owner. Eventually, I broke professional boundaries and spoke to her new owner as well, with no success for Sage.

I saw Sage and her owner again, this time riding in a clinic. After a dangerous hour the clinician said he felt Sage could never be normal under saddle.

He’s almost right. Training can’t heal physical injuries like lameness or ulcers but treatment can. Our first responsibility is to make sure that a horse’s resistance in training isn’t a result of a physical issue. Sage wasn’t given that help.

I got a call that Sage had colic and I agreed to haul her to the clinic. Have you witnessed the pain of colic? Her normal pain didn’t prepare her for this.  She fought courageously and the vet did his very best. I held the lead rope while Sage was euthanized.  At the very end, I did help her with the pain.

Sometimes we do everything we can to help our horses and we lose them anyway. It’s a small comfort to know we did our best. No such comfort for Sage.

She was not mine to train, she was not mine to help. Sage was none of my business.

I’m thinking of Sage as I prepare to give a talk on Equine Gastric Ulcers at an Equine Education Day this weekend.  I have experience helping  horses suffering with ulcers. Statistics say that 60% of performance horses have ulcers so victims aren’t hard to find. (To learn more google equine ulcers or email me at annamarieblake@gmail.com for my articles).

Some folks are probably tired of hearing me always trying to spread the word about managing equine ulcers. Maybe they think, “Who died and made Anna the ulcer police?”

Anna Blake, Infinity Farm

(Photo: Sunset with Grace.)

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Comment by deb pawlyshyn on June 3, 2011 at 1:04pm
Funny, I clicked onto this blog because you had ulcers and sage together lol. Interesting actually as I think I have been successful in being able to monitor horses with ulcers with sage, the herb. I use the purple kind and dehydrate it and use it as a tea along with other ingredients including alfalfa and Linden. Have always fed horses beetpulp or alfalfa right before working them and always have them out in pasture but when we raced TB's we would usually get ours back with ulcer-like symptoms. I feel the sage treatments while not a proven remedy may infact help manage ulcers. Any way glad you are the ulcer police as this in my opinion is the most insidious syndrome of our relationship with horses.
Comment by Barnmice Admin on June 3, 2011 at 9:21am
Hi Anna, I would be very interested in more information, especially what we can do to prevent and alleviate equine ulcers. THANK YOU for being the ulcer police!! :)
Comment by Jackie Cochran on June 3, 2011 at 9:08am
Good for you Anna.

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