Stomach Ulcers in Show and Training Horses

May 24, 2006 (published)

It has been proven that horses in highly competitive events, such as racing and show jumping, are commonly affected with stomach ulcers.  Exercise and training have been shown to increase the chances of ulcers developing.  However, a study was recently performed at Iowa State University to determine the prevalence of horses used for light activities.  This study attempted to mimic the life of a show horse by transporting them to a different environment, keeping them in a stall and lightly exercising daily for four days, then hauling them home.  Results of the study indicated that 70% of the horses developed ulcers from just this little stress compared to only 20% of the horses developing ulcers that were left at home.  Although these ulcers were mild, they were present and as most show horses are hauled every weekend, it is certainly possible these ulcers could increase in severity as the show season goes on. 

The concern I have about this study is that one of the most common side effects of drugs such as bute and Banamine are GI tract ulcers.  So if you have a horse you are routinely hauling to shows and giving bute or Banamine regularly, this horse is likely to develop moderate to severe ulcers.  For this reason alone, bute and Banamine should not be used unless absolutely necessary.  One of the symptoms of stomach ulcers is colic, and if you are treating the colic with Banamine, you may control the pain initially but will actually be causing the ulcers to get worse.  Even though the ulcers reported in this study of show horses were mild and probably don’t require treatment, the use of other drugs should be of concern for those of you hauling your horses to shows.

VIN News Service commentaries are opinion pieces presenting insights, personal experiences and/or perspectives on topical issues by members of the veterinary community. To submit a commentary for consideration, email

Information and opinions expressed in letters to the editor are those of the author and are independent of the VIN News Service. Letters may be edited for style. We do not verify their content for accuracy.