The Smash Block syndicate are eagerly awaiting racing at Cartmel on Monday – their favourite track. Rooms are booked, the wine is chilling and deckchairs are at the ready. It is such a sociable, unassuming place. I just hope the rain holds off.
I first visited the course 15 years ago. My friend was the racecourse manager and during race weeks he would take the small flat above the corner shop in Cartmel village as his base. There was always a great atmosphere in the local pubs and a party at the flat would usually follow.My friend’s hospitality was legendary in the Cumbrian valley.
Various local trainers, owners and jockeys were regularly spotted stumbling down the corner flat steps in the dawn mist, sheepishly heading home and vowing never to be led astray by my pal again.
I have a horse in the yard suffering from ulcers, a common ailment affecting more than 90 per cent of racehorses. As a natural born grazer, the horse is not designed for the fasting, high-protein diet associated with racing and high-level competition.
When the stomach is empty, acid levels build up. It can take just 60 minutes for an ulcer to form. A loss in performance can sometimes be the only obvious sign of a problem, and 37 per cent of leisure horses and 63 per cent of performance horses are also affected by them.
Foals are particularly vulnerable and the condition can prove fatal. Trauma from weaning, diarrhoea, transport or illness is not helped by their thin stomach lining.
My patient is a mare who arrived earlier in the season. She has traits which contribute to the problem – active, nervy, female, a picky eater who had a recent change in environment.
Despite looking fit and well she usually blew hard after her work. I hoped that once she settled in and relaxed in to a routine, things would pick up, but they didn’t.
Turning out in the field, appetite stimulants and supplements proved futile; the vet confirmed my doubts after viewing her stomach lining with an endoscope. She was covered in ulcerations.
Four boxes of gold-plated medicine (£850) and plenty of time later, we returned to the vets for judgment day this week.
Her ‘special’ routine seems to be working. She is trained from the field, constantly foraging and has a high-fibre, low-starch diet. Luckily, her appetite has returned and the weight is piling on, so she must be relaxed – a good sign.
She feels like a different animal in her work, I can barely hold her on the gallops and she will run on the flat once given the all clear.
The owners have been patient and willing to do what is necessary to get her right, I can’t ask for more than that so I hope she rewards them well.