In the Night Farm…Your Ride is Here.

Sheer Brilliance: Aloe and MSM as Alternative Therapy for Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome

“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? šŸ˜‰
Related Posts

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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11 responses

  1. Congratulations! What a wonderful result! Since learning more about alternative therapies in vet school, I plan to implement them as often as possible once I’m out in practice. What a relief for you two. I’m additionally happy to hear this as I’ve been a little suspicious that Jasper has a bit of an ulcer-gut at times. I’m keeping an eye on it for now, but will pursue further diagnostics if I need to. He does have some mild episodes of colic with our traveling back and forth, though.

    January 25, 2009 at 6:39 am

  2. This is cause for celebration. All of your research and persistence paid off. Good for both of you.

    January 25, 2009 at 7:08 am

  3. Congratulation on your happy boy! I also wanted to let you know I finally got myself together enough to accept and pass on the lovely award you gave me last October…time has been a bit crazy around here. Carmon

    January 25, 2009 at 5:53 pm

  4. jme

    yay, so glad you found something that works so well for him! i can also add that we had a TB stallion (ex-racehorse) in our barn a few years ago who had ulcers and fed him aloe like you describe (we didn’t use the msm, though he was on other supplements) with similar results. it was the only thing that worked for him, so i am also a believer šŸ™‚

    January 25, 2009 at 8:17 pm

  5. I’ve never heard of this treatment before – this is great! We have a client horse here in the barn where I work who did not respond to a recent regimen of 60 days Gastrogard, and she’s just obviously miserable – grits her teeth, tail swishing, pinned ears, nasty faces, all the time. I love alternative therapies. Some don’t always work, but some are SO much better than conventional treatments. It’s amazing what a little bit of nature can do.

    January 25, 2009 at 10:14 pm

  6. Lee

    I can only find the glucosomine on the website you mentioned, no msm, where did you get the msm and the aloe for the horses? Thanks!

    January 25, 2009 at 11:15 pm

  7. I have a friend whose horse probably has ulcers. She already has him on aloe vera, but maybe msm together with that would be worth a shot. What does msm stand for?How did your Aruba get the ulcers?

    January 26, 2009 at 7:24 am

  8. Excellent.Glad to hear he’s feeling better.I hope it turns out to be a 100%

    January 26, 2009 at 12:40 pm

  9. Elly — I'm glad more vets (and soon-to-be vets) are paying attention to this stuff! Do let me know if you try this for your lovely Jasper. :-)jme — I've heard other, postive reports about aloe alone. Someday, when I'm rich and famous, I'd love to study the effectiveness of aloe alone, and aloe & MSM, in a properly scientific manner.Andrea — I'd love to hear about the result if the owner tries this therapy with the horse in your barn.Thanks for your kind words, all. If you posted a question, see my January 26, 2009 post for answers. šŸ™‚

    January 26, 2009 at 3:06 pm

  10. Lee

    thanks Tamara… FYI, Bio-alternatives and have the msm as well for a bit less or the same in case you need an altrenative source. I have ordered everything and will try this combo on my mule ! Thanks!

    January 28, 2009 at 3:28 am

  11. (Hi, I’m back!)Since MSM is prohibited, you might want to look into human medical grade essential oils you could start using along with the MSM. I have been using Young Living oils for a while now and my friend Sandy (you’ll read about her in my next blogpost) is an expert in their medicinal use in horses. If you’d like, I can ask her or put you in touch with her. But maybe it’s the aloe, or he’s cured. And you won’t need the MSM. Glad Aaruba’s himself again.

    February 10, 2009 at 6:19 pm

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