THE difficulty of diagnosing hind gut ulcers in horses is that they can only be conclusively detected during post-mortem. But much like ourselves, the incidence of gut issues often referred to as ‘inflammatory bowel syndrome’ in horses has seen significant increases in recent times (Boshuizen et al 2018).
Access to an ever-expanding range of commercial feed compounds, mashes and supplements for our horses has propelled the horse owner into the guise of sous-chef. At the feed store, there are balanced feeds of various protein levels (10, 12, 14%), health-focused feeds (such as those that are developed for sensitive /picky/laminitic horses) and sport feeds (which claim to be ideally developed to support competitive equines) as well as a vast array of supplements targeting specific areas of the body to choose from.
In our quest to provide a nutritious diet and support our equines daily performance, it is easy to think that providing more is better. However, excess levels of essential vitamins and minerals have a direct impact on the equines sensitive organs to function appropriately. So, is it any surprise that with the enormous variety of feed choices there has been a substantial increase in horses presenting with gastric issues? Anecdotally, 80% of the equine population.
Case study: CB Let it Be aka: Paddy
The impact of poor nutrition can be insidious, detrimental to adequate gastric functioning and can be fatal. The following case study highlights the impact of nutrition on the creation of gastric issues as well as its repair.
Siobhan Cazabons Irish Sport Horse ‘Paddy’ was described as “always an easy do-er and of great temperament”. He had competed extensively as a five-year-old but has been variously in/out of work in the last number of years. In 2020, at 13 years of age, a swelling appeared on the side of his face. Similar to an allergy response, there was no identifiable trigger and the swelling could not be attributed to a specific seasonal allergy, change in environment or feed regime.
As time went by, Siobhan’s horse started to lose weight. Despite having his teeth checked and daily feeds (12% ‘balanced’ compound nuts) increased, the weight loss continued in a dramatic fashion. Fast forward to early 2022 and Paddy was weak with emaciated hind quarters and a dull coat. He was no longer able to be ridden. Alarmed at the deterioration in her horse’s weight and condition over 15 months, despite a good appetite, Siobhan with the support of her local veterinarian Dr Niamh Walch of Western Veterinary clinic got a referral to UCD Animal Hospital.
At UCD, Paddy was “tested from nose to tail” by the veterinary team who completed an extensive battery of tests including salivary gland function, glucose absorption and biopsies which were unfortunately ‘inconclusive’. The diagnosis was made of Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome with zero absorption from the hind gut.
Despite meticulous adherence to the recommended feed regime, there was little to no improvement in Paddy’s condition four weeks later. In fact, Siobhan committed to making a decision to humanely euthanise her horse.
A chance meeting with Galway based veterinarian Philip McManus of Glenina Vets and Rockmount AI Clinic prompted a recommendation to begin the ailing horse on the Belmont Feeding Protocol, a patented feeding regime, developed by equine veterinarian Dr Richard McCormick to deliver ‘ideal blood counts’ in racing thoroughbreds.
The Belmont Feeding Protocol had been used to great success with McManus’ own breeding stallion Silver shadow (CP) who had previously experienced gut imbalance issues as well as reduced fertility. McManus was so impressed by the direct impact of the combined use of crushed oats, Champion Oat Balancer ™ & Champion Roasted Flaxseed, a human grade, non GMO source of vital essential fatty acid alongside (ideally Timothy) hay. that he recommends it for any equine presenting with gastric issues.
Siobhan began feeding four kilograms of crushed oats, two and a half scoops of Champion Oat Balancer ™ & 200 grams (four x 50g scoops) of Champion Roasted Flaxseed daily split over three feeds. The impact of the Belmont feeding regime on the horse was almost immediate.
According to Siobhan: “The turn-around in 10 days was remarkable! I am gob-smacked. My horse went from emaciated to passable in such a short space of time. Honestly, Richard’s Belmont Feeding Protocol saved my horse’s life.”
At a glance, it is easy to see the impact of optimal nutrition for healing in this case presentation but the real results lie in the review of blood work. An initial sample of Paddy’s blood taken in May 2022 shows haematology markers in the low range with blood chemistry indicating poor gut functioning and malabsorption of critical nutrients. Repeated blood work done in October 2022, 10 weeks after Paddy began the Belmont Feeding Protocol, showed all haematology markers in the normal range.
After a harrowing two years and myth-busting the belief that feeding oats leads to a ‘crazy’ horse, Paddy is very settled in his disposition and eager to work.
Dr Richard McCormick asserts that what we feed our horses can have a direct impact on their general health and well-being. McCormick’s interest in the impact of nutrition on equine performance is a long standing one. An Irish and Kentucky licensed equine veterinarian who held a successful thoroughbred training license on the Curragh for 10 years, McCormick developed his patented Belmont Feeding Protocol while working as private veterinarian to HRH Prince Abdulaziz bin Fahd racing stables, Saudi Arabia in 2000.
With daily access to 50 horses over a 12 month period, Richard had the opportunity to further his research culminating in his Champion Oat Balancer™. Central to his feeding regime is naturally available food (Champion Roasted Flaxseed and crushed oats) and forage (ideally timothy hay) as well as the balancer to support the equine gut to both function and repair in response to the demands of daily activity.
McCormick notes: “There are so many commercially produced supplements and diets these days that we can unwittingly disturb the sensitive functioning of the gut to cause discomfort, malfunction and even disease. A proven regime of balanced nutrition can deliver incredible results. I have seen it may times.”
For more information visit: belmontequineproducts.com or contact Dr Richard McCormick: (083) 472 5858