The latest research shows that more than 80% of thoroughbreds retiring from racing suffer from ulcers. In order to understand how to prevent and treat your OTTB, you need to understand why ulcers are so prevalent in race horses.

What are the causes of ulcers in OTTBs?

The primary cause of ulceration in race horses, or ulcers in OTTBs,  include the following:

  • Intense exercise
  • Diets high in sugar/starch
  • Limited access to free grazing/forage
  • Stall Confinement
  • Administration of drugs such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NAISDs)
  • Physical Stress with training, travel and the racing environment.

 Training & Exercise

Exercise increases the production of hormones responsible for stimulating acid production in the stomach. Additionally during intense activity the splash effect can expose the non-glandular areas to increased acid amounts. Read more about how to prevent Gastric Splashing here.

Diet Regime

A diet consisting of large amounts of grain are high in carbohydrates contributes to the risk of inflammation and ulceration. Furthermore, racehorses often have limited (if any) access to grazing - which is one of the main causes of gastric ulcers.

NSAIDS Medications

Races horses are very susceptible to injury and often require administration of of Anti-inflammatory drugs to ease pain. However, the prolonged use of NSAIDs is one of the main causes of hindgut ulcers in horses.

Physical Stress 

A stressed horse releases hormones that directly relate to the formation of gastric ulcers. For a better understanding of this process, read How Stress Causes Gastric Ulcers in Horses.

Treating & preventing ulcers in horses

There are two main types of ulcers seen in OTTBs. They are gastric ulcers and hindgut ulcers. While often they present with similar symptoms, it is possible to identify The Different Symptoms of Gastric and Hindgut Ulcers.

Once the different ulcers are identified, you can learn how to treat different types of equine ulcers.


Common causes of equine ulcers. Common causes of equine ulcers.