Buffer Against Gastric Ulcers: Feed Hay Before Hitting The Road - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Buffer Against Gastric Ulcers: Feed Hay Before Hitting The Road

Offering a horse hay before he's transported can lower the risk of gastric ulcer development before long-distance trailer rides, reports The Horse.

An Italian study has found that horses that don't eat before getting on a trailer for longer-distance hauls are more likely to have reduced plasma oxidant levels, as well as to develop ulcers. The correlation between transport and fasting has a marked increase on stomach ulceration – more than just fasting alone, the scientists determined. 

Hay ingestion before the trip helps absorb stomach acid, protecting the horse's stomach. Eating hay also allows more antioxidants to be released into the bloodstream, balancing out free radicals, which can have physiological impacts on the body (like developing ulcers).

To find out how feeding forage before travel affects horses, Dr. Barbara Padalino, of the University of Bologna, in Italy, and a team of scientists created a study using 26 healthy mares (14 Standardbreds, 10 Thoroughbreds and two Warmbloods) that belonged to the Charles Sturt University in Australia.  The mares, ranging in age from 4 to 20 years old, lived on pasture full time, with additional alfalfa provided. 

The horses were split into two groups and driven on a 12-hour, 547-mile overnight trip in a 15-horse trailer. Both loads were driven by the same driver over the same route. All of the horses were given 4.4 pounds of alfalfa hay: seven horses got their hay an hour before getting on the trailer; seven got it six hours before traveling and the remaining 12 horses got their hay 12 hours before traveling. 

No horses got food or water during the trip. 

Four hours before the horses were loaded, each horse had an exam with blood tests to check standard blood parameters and total plasma antioxidant status. The same tests were repeated when the horses were unloaded, then again eight hours later and then two and a half days later. 

Gastroscopes were done a day before traveling, a day after unloading and 2.5 days later.

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The researchers found that ulcers were highest and antioxidants lowest in the group of horses that had been fasted prior to traveling. Fourteen of the horses had developed moderate to severe squamous mucosa ulcers by the time they unloaded. 

Free radicals were higher just after unloading in all groups. 

The researchers suggest that feeding hay to a horse prior to travel might affect both ulcer development and oxidative balance. More research is needed. 

Read more at The Horse.

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