Equine veterinary journal. Supplement2000; (29); 40-44; doi: 10.1111/j.2042-3306.1999.tb05167.x

Induction and maintenance of gastric ulceration in horses in simulated race training.

Abstract: Gastric ulceration is a prevalent condition of racehorses. A number of models of gastric ulceration have been described, but none mimic the conditions of a horse in training. The objectives of this study were to determine whether gastric ulcers could be induced and maintained in a group of horses in simulated race training. In addition, serum cortisol was measured on a weekly basis to investigate the possibility that stress may be important in the pathogenesis of gastric ulceration. Thirty horses used in the trial were fed Bermuda grass hay and 6 kg of a concentrate diet, and exercised 6 days/week at speed over a distance of 1.6-2.4 km. Serum was collected and gastroendoscopic examinations performed on a weekly basis for the duration of the trial. All horses developed moderate to severe ulceration, and ulcers were maintained for the 56 day period of the trial. Only one horse had signs of abdominal discomfort, which resolved with minimal symptomatic treatment and without the use of anti-ulcer medications. Serum cortisol remained within reference ranges for the duration of the trial. Although there was some variation between the weekly examinations, serum cortisol concentrations were decreased from values obtained at the start of the trial. In this study ulcers developed without the administration of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents or withholding of feed. This model provides a method to study the condition, and to investigate the effects of medications on the healing of ulcers in racehorses.
Publication Date: 2000-03-04 PubMed ID: 10696292DOI: 10.1111/j.2042-3306.1999.tb05167.xGoogle Scholar: Lookup
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This study looked at how simulated race training could induce and maintain gastric ulcers in horses. It also measured the horses’ serum cortisol levels to explore potential stress links to ulcer development. The research found that all horses experienced moderate to severe ulceration, maintained for eight weeks, indicating training conditions may indeed lead to ulcers.

Research Context and Objectives

  • The research was instigated by the high incidence of gastric ulceration in racehorses. Previous studies have attempted to simulate and study this condition, but none have successfully replicated the specific conditions a racehorse undergoes during training. Thus, this study aimed to induce and maintain gastric ulcers in horses training under race-like conditions.
  • Another facet of the research was to explore the role of stress in gastric ulcer development. To investigate this, the researchers measured the horses’ serum cortisol levels weekly – elevated cortisol is often associated with stress responses.

Methodology and Participants

  • The study involved thirty horses undergoing simulated race training over eight weeks. They were fed Bermuda grass hay and a concentrated diet, and ran distances of 1.6 to 2.4 km at speed six days a week.
  • Gastroendoscopic examinations were performed on a weekly basis, and serum was collected to measure cortisol levels. Importantly, none of the horses were given nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or experienced withholding of feed, conditions often present in other ulcer studies.


  • All horses developed moderate to severe gastric ulcers, and these ulcers were maintained for the entire eight-week period. Only one horse showed signs of abdominal discomfort, which was resolved with minimal treatment and without the use of anti-ulcer medications.
  • In terms of the serum cortisol measurements, the levels stayed within the reference range for the duration of the study. However, there was a noticeable decrease from the initial measurements at the start of the study.

Conclusion and Implications

  • The results suggest that the simulated race training conditions were successful in inducing and maintaining gastric ulcers in horses. Although the cortisol measurements did not suggest any significant stress response, the fact that ulcers developed in the conditions of this study provides a valuable model for future investigations.
  • Such a model can further our understanding of gastric ulcers in racehorses, likely leading to improved preventive measures and treatment strategies. It could also be instrumental in investigating the effects of different medications on the healing of ulcers in these animals.

Cite This Article

Vatistas NJ, Sifferman RL, Holste J, Cox JL, Pinalto G, Schultz KT. (2000). Induction and maintenance of gastric ulceration in horses in simulated race training. Equine Vet J Suppl(29), 40-44. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2042-3306.1999.tb05167.x


NlmUniqueID: 9614088
Country: United States
Language: English
Issue: 29
Pages: 40-44

Researcher Affiliations

Vatistas, N J
  • Department of Veterinary Surgical and Radiological Sciences, University of California, Davis, USA.
Sifferman, R L
    Holste, J
      Cox, J L
        Pinalto, G
          Schultz, K T

            MeSH Terms

            • Analysis of Variance
            • Animals
            • Breeding
            • Diet / veterinary
            • Female
            • Horse Diseases / blood
            • Horse Diseases / etiology
            • Horse Diseases / physiopathology
            • Horses
            • Hydrocortisone / blood
            • Male
            • Physical Conditioning, Animal
            • Stomach Ulcer / blood
            • Stomach Ulcer / etiology
            • Stomach Ulcer / physiopathology
            • Stomach Ulcer / veterinary
            • Stress, Physiological / complications
            • Stress, Physiological / veterinary


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