So far, so good. I’m cautiously optimistic about Zelda surviving hunt season without another flare-up of ulcers. We’ve been taking it easy — trailer training has helped, and I’ve been mixing it up, so that every trailer ride isn’t to a hunt.
Last week we went to a hunter pace, which was more low key than a hunt (Zelda kept looking for the hounds!) We meandered through nine miles of beautiful countryside without the revving up that comes from an actual hunt.
We haven’t hunted a lot (this Tuesday will be our fourth time out) but each ride has been an absolute gift. One thing I figured out right away is that much of her misbehavior last fall, must have been ulcer-related. She still gets strong in the hunt field, but there have been no tantrums and my hands don’t hurt at the end. I’m hunting her in a Waterford Butterfly bit with a curb chain, but she’s respecting it and — mostly — listening to me, which means I can soften and ride her on a loose rein. I went so far as to buy a double bridle last fall, but at this point don’t feel like I need it.
I feel terrible that I didn’t understand she had been telling me all along that her stomach hurt. She wasn’t being naughty; she was in pain. As a horse owner, it’s taught me an important lesson: when your horse starts acting differently, you need to investigate all the potential causes. It took me way too long to figure out that Zelda had ulcers because she wasn’t off her feed and she appears to be a laid back horse, who has none of the environmental triggers associated with ulcers (she lives outside, she gets free choice hay, she doesn’t have a particularly stressful job).
Now I prep her before every event to predispose her for success.
- I give her Omeprazole the day before and the morning of. Since Zelda and I are both sick of syringing bad tasting crap into her mouth, I’m using Nexium, which comes in a capsule. She eats it with a handful of grain.
- She gets Sucralfate twice a day as a preventative. Sucralfate forms a thick, viscous layer that acts as a protective coating in the stomach. Not only does it work right away, but the effect lasts for 6-8 hours. Even better, it can be mixed into food. The vet recommends that she get sucralfate during hunt season, but that she won’t need it the rest of the time.
- She gets Purina Outlast, mixed with a bit of Triple Crown Senior the morning of a hunt. I feed Outlast at every meal, but when she sees the trailer, she sometimes doesn’t want to eat. Since she no longer gets grain, the Senior is enough of a treat that she gobbles it up.
- Her hay bag is stuffed with Alfalfa.
I’m glad that so far we’ve been able to continue our expeditions without causing her distress. Have you been able to resume your normal competitive activities after your horse had ulcers? How did you keep them from coming back?