Riding a Horse With Ulcers

Riding a Horse With Ulcers

Last updated on July 9th, 2020 at 01:05 am

How Do I Ride a Horse that Has Ulcers?

What to Know Before Riding a Horse with Ulcers

Ulcers are not fun for anyone. If your horse has been diagnosed, or you suspect they are suffering from ulcers, you are probably wondering whether you should saddle up and go for a ride or leave your horse alone to heal and rest. It might feel intuitive to stable your horse and treat them like you would a sick person. However, this is not always the best course of action. If you have an active horse, they are probably used to a lot of movement and exercise. One of the main causes of ulcers is an abrupt change in a horse’s usual routine or a sudden bout of unexpected loneliness. For this reason, it is not suggested to isolate your horse when they have ulcers.

To keep your horse active and foraging, ensure they have plenty of access to the pasture. Keep them with their friends and treat them like a normal horse. Give them their feed and hay and alfalfa and keep them moving in a normal way. Keep a watch on their diet and behaviour. The only thing worse than ignoring ulcers is treating your afflicted horse like an invalid. They are smart creatures and will grow upset when isolated or removed from their usual habits, and this can agitate the ulcers already formed, causing pain and discomfort.

Can I Ride a Horse with Ulcers?

Yes, you can definitely ride a horse with ulcers. Most owners who find out their horses have an ulcer put them onto a treatment plan right away. It doesn’t stop the horse from training and performing. However, the severity of the ulcer can affect the diet and therefore energy of the horse so you need to monitor that.

You also as mentioned, need to watch the horse behaviour as well. Generally, horses with more severe ulcers will act out or be a little less calm. So while riding you may encounter some of this behaviour, and the horse will not want to work. You have to take your time and work with the horse over the length of its treatment plan, and you may not be able to do your full training.

Horse Ulcers Bucking

We already know the telltale signs of ulcers – weight loss, appetite loss, behavioural changes – but once the ulcers are identified and are being treated, one of the things you must be aware of are the signs that your horse is pain from the now-healing ulcers. When this happens, it might be wise to give your horse a bit of a break and a little snack (alfalfa is always a good choice) to settle the rampaging stomach acid.

Because with ulcers comes a distinct lack of energy and a lowered performance, your horse may be cranky when it comes to obeying all commands while you are in the saddle. This is fairly normal. However, if your horse begins bucking, sucking, or otherwise thrashing, chances are the ulcers are seriously bothering them. That means it’s time to rest. Fill their bellies and let them recuperate if they are bucking or showing any signs of being in pain.


Work horses need to work. Not just because it is their job and maybe they have important duties around the ranch or the farm, but also because it is their usual habit and to break their routine is harmful. This doesn’t mean you need to keep them slaving in high gear. If your horse has ulcers, try to work them gently. Give them light duties to perform, keeping up with their daily activities but not putting any unneeded strain on their poor tortured tummy. This can help a horse maintain their weight and keep them healthy, and also keep their minds off the trouble in their gut. It is critical to keep those strong horse muscles moving and stretching and to burn calories. You don’t want a horse to grow lethargic and lazy along with their gastrointestinal problems.


When deciding whether you should pull out the saddle and ride your ulcer-plagued horse, their mood is a key factor to consider. If they are especially grumpy and acting like a stubborn baby when you mount them, then buck and kick and refuse to follow orders, chances are you are irritating them. They might be annoyed by the situation in general, their mood ruined because of the ulcers – or they might be in pain. If your horse is being a grump, maybe wait a few days and try again. On the flip side, if your horse is happy and shows no signs of irritation when you ride, then go ahead. Use your best judgment and try to assess your horse’s general attitude.

Magnesium has been known to help.


Let’s talk about saddles. Some people think that because their horse has stomach ulcers they need to ride bareback, but this is simply not true. Stomach ulcers are in the stomach, not on the back – and it makes no difference to the pain in your horse’s gut if you ride with a saddle or not.

The cause of your horse’s potential pain when riding comes from within. Because ulcers are formed by dangerous acids splashing against the unprotected stomach lining, it makes sense that this same stomach acid will irritate and inflame already-made ulcers. Think about if you jumped up and down for five minutes while on an empty stomach – your guts would feel weird, right? This is because the stomach acid is getting thrown against the stomach lining. When your horse has ulcers and you decide to ride them, watch your behavior carefully. Don’t make them jump too much or do anything too crazy that can upset their stomach. Be gentle but firm. If they start bucking or getting upset, chances are the ulcers are bugging them.

Feed First

The very best thing to do when riding a horse with ulcers is to make sure their belly is full before you get in the saddle. This comes back to the splashing stomach acid. By giving your horse access to hay or forage before you start riding, it will give their gut a chance to fill and create a buffer from the acid, while getting the Ph balance to a nominal level. Some horse owners even choose to offer an antacid before riding to make sure the animal’s belly is as calm as it can be.

What also works besides hay and forage is alfalfa. You can buy an entire bag of alfalfa pellets for your horse at the local horse supply store. These little pellets are super high in calcium and protein, which both add to the buffering abilities inside the stomach. Feed a few handfuls to your horse while you groom and prep to ride, and this will add that extra barrier of protection while riding.

Keep in mind proper feeding, the attitude of your horse, and the signs of its discomfort, and you should be able to ride without any problems. Use your discretion. When unsure, always speak to a veterinarian for professional advice.

For more information about ulcers and what to do visit our main ulcer page and check out our other articles on ulcers.

Final Note

Over the years and through some research I have learned a lot about this subject.  This article is an all-encompassing post on this subject.  I hope to shed some light on the issue and answer some questions.  Most notably I am going to highlight natural treatments and remedies that are available for the treatment of ulcers.  I am certainly not a vet or trying to play one on the internet, so please consult your vet.

The information provided here is for informational purposes only.  The information is not a substitute for advice from a veterinarian or other health care professional.  It should not be used for diagnosis or treatment of any health problem or for prescription of any medication or other treatment. A health care professional needs to be consulted before starting any diet or supplementation program.  Also before administering any medication, alternative, herbal blends et al or if your horse has a health problem. Do not discontinue any other medical treatments without first consulting your health care professional.