"He just keeps getting better and better," I told Travis when he met me on the driveway. "I can't remember the last time Aaruba had so much energy!"
(Actually, I can. It was this ride. But that was different -- a special kind of ride that comes unplanned and unbidden, like dreaming of a long-lost love.)
Today's was just a standard conditioning ride of 21 miles along the agricultural roads that spin their web around In the Night Farm. Impending rain sapped color from the landscape and hemmed the horizons with clouds. Yes, the weather was dull...but Aaruba was not. He was the horse I remember from the pre-ulcer days, my Arabian dragon set loose to conquer the world. Like the dream-walking lover, I'd all but forgotten him.
In the last post of my Equine Gastric Ulcer Series, I mentioned that I was planning to try an alternative ulcer therapy should Aaruba's minor ulcer symptoms persist despite 60 days' treatment with GastroGard and a rigorous preventative program. Though much improved, Aaruba's minor "colic" symptoms did continue to manifest themselves periodically throughout November and December. He occasionally displayed reluctance to canter and a tendency to spook unnecessarily. Most subtle and frustrating of all was his continued lack of the perfect brilliance I used to know.
And so, exactly three weeks ago, I decided to give my alternative EGUS therapy a whirl. I've been mixing 1 tablespoon of pure, human-grade MSM and 1/2 cup of high-quality aloe vera gel into Aaruba's beet pulp twice daily. That's it.
Within three days, every ulcer symptom disappeared, and I haven't seen them since. No more mild colics that resolve with a dose of equine antacid. No more pinned ears and bucks. No dosing with antacids every hour during workouts. No spooking, unless you count the playful variety that's good for a mile of full-on, 18-mph trot. And with every ride, another notch up in energy and enthusiasm. Aaruba blasted through today's ride so "fit to continue" that I think we could have finished a slow 50 despite the toll winter has taken on our conditioning schedule.
A few details:
1) Yes, the human-grade MSM is important. As Carla of Focus Equine explained to me, animal-grade products vary by huge percentages from their labels; human-grade products must actually contain the ingredients they claim. Human-grade MSM is considerably more expensive than the products marketed for equines, but take the time to shop around. I found it for $14.00/pound in a 10-pound bucket.
2) I also ordered gallon-sized jugs of high-quality, pure aloe gel. You can't get this stuff at Walmart, but at $15 per gallon, the price isn't ridiculous. At the rate I'm currently feeding it, the aloe & MSM treatment adds up to a whopping $2.00 per day. (Compare that to $28.00 for a full tube of GastroGard, or $7.00 per day for the preventative dose.)
3) No, of course this isn't scientific. Although Aaruba was scoped in August and diagnosed with gastric ulcers, he has undergone a variety of treatments since, and I haven't had him re-scoped to prove that his more recent "ulcery" behavior was, in fact, caused by ulcers.
4) Furthermore, I haven't taken Aaruba off the aloe and MSM regimen yet, so it remains to be seen whether its apparent effect is an actual cure (!) or merely a remarkably soothing paring of feed additives. We'll know soon enough: MSM is an AERC banned substance, so when competition season rolls around, the aloe is on its own.
5) Finally, my thanks to Brad with Performance Animal Nutrition for putting me onto the aloe and MSM idea to begin with.
6) Welcome back, Hot Stuff. Now, settle down, will ya? ;-)
Introduction: Equine Gastric Ulcer Series
Strategies for Prevention of Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome
Pharmaceutical and Alternative Treatment Options for Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome
Equine Ulcer Supplement Options
EGUS, Endurance, and the AERC
A Fair Question: Equine Athletes, Equine Ulcers
Bringing it Home: EGUS Prevention at In the Night Farm
Q & A: Aloe and MSM as Alternative Therapy for EGUS
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