You have probably heard that many horses in Europe have stomach ulcers, often without their owner being aware of it. Stomach ulcers can arise because a horse, for example, gets too little or too irregular roughage, due to medication or is trained on an empty stomach. But there is another important cause: chronic stress. How do you know if your horse suffers from chronic stress? What are you doing about it? And how can you prevent stomach ulcers from stress?
Difference chronic and acute stress in horses
There is a difference between acute stress and chronic stress. By acute stress we mean: stress that suddenly arises and causes a violent reaction. A scary place in the riding arena, for example, which scares your horse. Or an injection from the vet, which makes your horse very alert. Acute stress is not such a problem for your horse. It allows him to flee quickly from the source of the danger. Adrenaline is released and it is briefly completely "on". When the source of the acute stress has disappeared, your horse calms down and the stress disappears.
However, when the source of the stress remains for too long, stress can become chronic. This is also the case with people, for example a burnout due to constant stress at work. Chronic stress is very unhealthy. It causes - in horses and in humans - changes in the hormone balance and leads, for example, to high blood pressure and insomnia. Chronic stress sets off a kind of chain reaction in the body, involving the brain, adrenal glands, pancreas and liver. The blood sugar level can increase and the skeletal muscles can start to break down muscle proteins, which in turn causes more waste products to enter the blood. But the stomach can also be affected. Stress also leads to a weakening of the immune system, making the body less resistant to diseases and infections. Chronic stress therefore causes a lot of problems!
How does chronic stress arise in horses?
There can be many causes for chronic stress in horses. Illness, pain, surgery, lameness or transport are examples. But a persistent shortage of roughage, free movement and social contact with other horses can also cause chronic stress. Asking for performances that the horse is not ready for, or that he cannot handle physically, also causes stress. The tricky part is that a horse will not tell you that, but will continue to do its best for a long time. So you have to be very alert and take a good look at your horse. Symptoms of chronic stress include slimming and the development of unnatural behaviour such as weaving and cribbing.
The influence of chronic stress on the stomach
Stress reduces the blood supply to the stomach and also causes the production of certain substances that make the stomach wall more sensitive. Because less blood goes to the stomach wall, it is already more sensitive to the stomach acid. Horses under prolonged stress are therefore more likely to develop stomach ulcers or gastric erosion, where the stomach wall becomes thin and sensitive.
Solutions for chronic stress
First, provide plenty of good quality roughage, free movement and social interaction with other horses. But be careful with sharp alfalfa, this can actually irritate a horse with stomach ulcers. Also take a good look at what else you can do to reduce stress. Provide variety in the work, give plenty of rest, and let your trainer help determine a good training schedule. Providing the mineral magnesium and possibly the amino acids L-triptophan and threonine can help reduce anxiety and nervousness. Other supplements can also be helpful. HELTIE horse Stress
is especially suitable for acute stress (transport, competition), but can also help to break a pattern in chronic stress. For a more balanced horse, which is more balanced, we recommend HELTIE horse Cannabidol
. This brings more balance to body and mind. Cannabidol also strengthens the immune system, which is often compromised in horses with chronic stress and stomach ulcers.
Also read our blog about why training on an empty stomach is not recommended.