CASE STUDY: Ulcers and Poor Hoof Quality

A common theme among horse owners who bring their horses to a Four Oaks Equine clinic is that they are at their wit’s end, having struggled unsuccessfully with a condition that has resisted all standard attempts at resolution. They bring their horse in the hope that a different perspective and a different toolkit will yield a path to health.  But optimism may be in short supply when one has already expended significant time, energy, and resources to fix a horse — only to be disappointed and frustrated repeatedly.

In that frame of mind, Abbey Rinker brought her 5 year old OTTB Gotham Queen, better known as Kat, to a clinic.  She was emotionally and financially drained from dealing with Kat’s intractable ulcer symptoms and poor hoof quality that had her constantly losing shoes. She was thinking of selling her because Kat’s expenses were so high.  The frustrating twist was that when Kat was well, she could do anything… she is an incredible athlete.

Kat presented as an exquisitely proportioned mare who was seriously under-muscled, with a bleached coat, and hooves that looked brittle and weak.  All three signs and symptoms are indicative of a lack of key nutrients, especially trace minerals and specific amino acids.  The chronic gut upset is common in OTTBs, particularly in those who raced frequently.  Without intervention that goes beyond the bandaids of Ulcergard/Gastrogard, sucralfate, and misoprostol to achieve what I call a “deep fix,” these symptoms generally do not resolve.  I have seen OTTBs who have been off the track for 15 years who cannot function without constant ulcer treatment — which may make them comfortable but does not make them well.  Once the gut is fixed, the medications (and the expense) are no longer necessary.

I told Abbey that fixing Kat was straightforward and not especially complicated.  Her jaw didn’t quite drop but I could feel her skepticism as skinny Kat grazed at our feet. 

“How will you do that?”

“A more gut friendly diet that provides all her key nutrients, some gut support that targets issues of over-acidity and flora imbalance, and a supplement that supports muscle formation.  I think her feet will fix themselves on this diet.”

“But what will it cost?’

“Considerably less than what you are spending.”

“But how long will it take?”  I know she is thinking months.

“You should see a noticeable difference in 7-10 days and it will build from there.”

Huge relief.

“Okay!  Let’s do it!”

And so we did.  This is May 2023. 

Kat before implementing her protocol.

Kat did well through the rest of the year, gaining weight, off ulcer meds, and holding shoes as her feet revitalized with the right nutrients. I am not in the showing world so do not stay abreast of who is placing and winning.  I knew that she was well and that Abbey was happy and that was what was important.

Then the Thoroughbred Incentive Program (TIP) performance awards for 2023 were announced.

– Kat placed 4th in English pleasure out of 91 horses.
– Kat placed 6th in Halter out of 79 horses.
– Kat placed 4th in On-Line Shows out of 15 horses.
– Kat placed 3rd in TCA Green OTTB (last raced 2021) out of 84 horses.

Abbey shared that, in addition, in 2023 she was 9x champion at the Ivy Row Farm horse show and Reserve Open/Tip Hunter, 3rd Senior Hunter, and Overall High Point adult horse/rider at the Jefferson County 4-H Saddle Cubs series show.

This is an exceptional record for a young OTTB, especially one who was crippled with gut symptoms up until May.  It highlights the critical role of the right foods, the right nutrients, and the right supplements synergizing to propel a young, talented mare into her full strength and vitality.  This is the “deep fix.”

Kat remains on her program and is well and “fixed.”

Kat — looking the way she is supposed to look in Spring 2024.

Need help with a horse?  You do not have to be local — I work all over the country and in Canada virtually.  Please go to  Your horse’s fix may be as straightforward as Kat’s.  Let’s go for the “deep fix” — the key to lasting, robust health.

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