To Scope or not to Scope, that is a big question?

Updated: Aug 16, 2019

To Scope or not to Scope, that is a big question?

The story I'm about to tell you, of my mare, is what gave me the inspiration for this post; not only because she had ulcers but also the things I regret doing; Not scoping the first time!

In 2017, Tolly was showing more and more signs of having ulcers. She had shown signs since I got her in 2015, but there were way too many other factors to have put it down to just ulcers. She was underweight, stressed easily, tucked up on outings and would lose weight any time she had a stressful day (or minute) so all signs that point to ulcers. But in saying all tha't, she was a 4-year -old off the track, who had just finished her spell and had no clue about balance, respect or life. So, of course, with there being other coursing factors, it was best to pursue the other cheaper options first. Also believing that she already had a lengthy spell, it would be likely to point to the later.

As the months went by and I had spent time fixing her issues, I noticed that things weren't right. Things were progressing but very slowly to, even with her progression the flags waving “ulcers” were still there. So once I concluded it might be ulcers; I had two options; treat, or scope then treat. Being 99% sure Tolly had ulcers, I decided just to treat, since back then scoping days weren’t as readily available and it was going to cost me the same amount as one month’s treatment to scope. So I treated, and bam! Within days I had a different horse. She still had a long way to go with her training, but she was more willing to do as I asked, and all my training just seemed to sink in quicker. Overall Tolly was more happy and calmer about life!

I was right; she had ulcers. Problem solved, after two months of treatment witch set me back just under $1,000. We weaned her off the treatment once she stopped her symptoms and continued life as normal.

Four months later, things went downhill again but in a different way. Things weren't working. She was going so well we would take three steps forward within a week but have one bad day and take 10 steps back, this was not Tolly, for a cheeky, overstimulated mare she loved to work, and still does.

Tolly just wasn’t herself, and she wasn’t happy. Now, naively I thought it couldn’t be ulcers.

“I just treated for them", I said to myself. So I let myself get taken back by the, "a mare is a mare; mares have off days". I'll touch on that another day, but, when you think about it, that’s stupid! We all have off days but seriously? We’re allowing the "females are moody" stereotype control how we allow our mares to behave? It’s just not OK and inaccurate! Now I’m not saying mares don’t have uncomfortable days, but I am saying we need to step back and look at what we think is acceptable. Mares are complicated, smart and sometimes cunning, but they are worth every drop of sweat, blood and tears!

After working on training for a while and the same symptimes hanging around, I decided to get Tolly scoped, I waited for a scoping day, as it's so much cheaper that way. My vet had a scoping day with Ranvet that would only cost me $150 for a scope.

Now, this is how scoping days work. There is a rep of an equine medication company who comes to your vets and together, they sedate, scope, analyse and diagnose. My favourite part was when I got to see the whole scoping. I got to see all the things they saw, and they explained to me what everything was. I know scoping days put people off, as they sell you their product if your horse has ulcers. A lot of people are under the impression that it’s a sales tactic to make more money. I, of course, understand why that makes people hesitant, but it is an easy fix. Just do your research first and look for a scoping day run by a company you're happy with. Alternatively, if you trust your vet, wait for them to do a scoping day. It is easy to feel at ease if you do the research yourself or have people around you that you trust. You also don’t have to buy the drugs from them at the end of the day you can choose a different direction once diagnosed if that’s what you so desire.

Before coming to get scoped, I was already under the impression that Tolly had ulcers again and to be truly honest, at this stage, I was hoping she did. She was so grumpy all the time and shut off. I just wanted answers, and if they said yes to Ulcers, it meant it wasn’t something else.

After fasting for 12 hours for the scope, we made our way out to the vet, and into the crush, she went.

Tolly had stage 2 ulcers on her Saccus caucus region and mild ulcers on her Pylorus! Tolly would have been in severe pain!! Her treatment plan was 6ml of "UlcerShield" (for her stage two Ulcers) once daily, 30-40 minutes before she receives her breakfast, (hard feed) as well as 6 Carafate Tablets twice daily (for the mild ulceration on her Pylorus). Tolly will be on this treatment for 60 days and will then get re-scoped. Due to the severity of her ulcers, she might need to do another round of treatment but less intense. Once her Ulcers are gone, she will need to be weaned off the drugs.

OK, I know what you’re all thinking!

"The first treatment wasn’t good enough!"

"The first drug you used didn’t work!" "You're feeding the wrong feed!"

"You put your horse under too much stress!" "Why are they so bad?"

Without getting a scope, before or after the initial treatment, I can’t be 100% sure what was wrong with her back then. But when the symptoms start up after being weened off the drug it only makes sense that they were not treated the first time correctly. And how could they, they were not diagnosed, and her stomach lining wasn’t checked before weaning her off.

If I had of got Tolly scoped the first time, I would have been able to know the severity of the ulcers and put her on the right treatment plan originally. Once you fix ulcers, you can prevent them from returning by doing certain steps.

If you think your horse has ulcers, get them scoped! If they don’t have ulcers, you only spent $150 (give or take), but you gained peace of mind.

Now, I’m not going to say I wasted 12 months, but I sure did cause my mare a lot of grief, many missed opportunities and inhibited our training. Don’t make the same mistake I did.

To scope is the Answer!

Please feel free to ask me any questions in regards to my experience and how I feed to prevent ulcers, Keep a lookout for my "Feeding horses with Ulcers" post, to read about what I feed my mare, what feeds you shouldn’t feed and what conflicting and helpful information I had come across during my research.

I also look forward to hearing from anyone in regards to their diet plans and their experience with ulcers. Also, please let me know your thoughts on my post. I found this experience very informative and has completely changed my view of scoping. I hope this post saves at least one person from making the same mistake I did.

Off to bigger and better things.

Happy riding!

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