Staying on Guard

Good equine health care part of equation for racetrack success.

Good equine health care is part of the equation for racetrack success.

Christina Zehender of Fort Jennings, Ohio, one of the new faces and voices of Ulcergard (omeprazole). Photo courtesy of Merial

From AQHA Corporate Partner Merial

For American Quarter Horse breeder, racing enthusiast and barrel racer Christina Zehender of Fort Jennings, Ohio, the proof is in the racetrack payout. But the cash might have remained on the table had it not been for her willingness to give a promising 4-year-old one more chance.

Christina’s gelding, Quickflyin Elin, bolted out of the gate as a 2-year-old, finishing his inaugural year on the track with a win by more than two lengths at the Buckeye Futurity. But as a 3-year-old, “Eli” didn’t seem to be quite as good.
“He had one win, but didn’t step up in the derby competition like we expected,” Christina recalls. “After placing seventh, my trainer said he would never be competitive in Indiana, where we race, so we brought Eli home to think about other potential careers.”

Christina wasn’t ready to give up on Eli’s career as a racehorse and thought the gelding might be suffering from ulcers, which could have been hindering his performance. Although her veterinarian didn’t have an endoscope, he concurred with Christina’s thinking, making a presumptive diagnosis.

“Eli is very nervous and doesn’t like change,” she says. “When he came home from the track, he wasn’t eating well and was depressed.” Eli was given a regimen of Gastrogard (omeprazole), the only FDA-approved treatment for equine gastric ulcers, and returned to his normal self.

Learn more about equine gastric ulcers, and how to protect and prevent your horse from getting them with UlcerGard.

The following spring, not yet ready to throw in the towel on what had been a promising career on the track, Christina put Eli on Ulcergard (omeprazole) as a preventive measure to combat the possible onset of stress-related stomach ulcers.

“He went back into training and besides using Ulcergard, I closely monitored his attitude and eating,” Christina says. “Eli won his first race at Beulah Park that spring, and although he had some bad luck, he eventually hit his stride in Indiana, where he won three open allowance races at Indiana Downs, setting a track record.”

Christina believes the regimen of Ulcergard contributed to the gelding’s ability to stay healthy enough to compete at a high level. Although her horses all have “normal horse lives” at home, enjoying turnout and socialization, track life introduces an entirely different routine.

“The biggest thing we have found is when they are away at the track for training, they encounter a great amount of stress, and we have seen how that stress can decrease their ability to reach peak performance,” she says. “The time in the stall, the workout schedule and hauling take a toll on them.”

Christina’s experience with Ulcergard didn’t start with Eli but with a barrel-racing mare several years before. Following a bout with Potomac Horse Fever, from which she had recovered, the mare was still off feed and depressed. At the recommendation of her veterinarian, who made a presumptive diagnosis of stomach ulcers, Christina started the mare on a treatment of Gastrogard. According to her, the mare’s condition improved quickly.

You guard your horses from injuries. You guard them from diseases. Now guard them from equine gastric ulcers with UlcerGard.

Given Christina’s experiences with Gastrogard and Ulcergard, she was anxious to lend her voice and face to the product as a spokeswoman for Ulcergard. She entered the Merial-sponsored Stay on Guard contest, was selected as a finalist by a panel of judges and then voted on by the general public in an online competition. Christina’s success story spoke to evaluators and fellow horse enthusiasts, resulting in her being named the Stay on Guard spokeswoman in the racehorse category.

“The number of entries we received sharing first-hand accounts of how well this product worked for horse owners is gratifying,” says Dr. Steve Lerner, Merial’s large-animal head of marketing. “I think many other horse owners will be able to identify with the positive experiences Christina had with her horses and recognize the potential the product has to help them as well.”

In addition to Christina, the other Stay on Guard spokewomen are AQHA member Lyndsey Tait in the English category, Kari Kemper Hickham in the western category, and AQHA member Amie Allen in the veterinarian/veterinary technician category. For more information about the Stay on Guard contest winners or Ulcergard, visit

Merial is a world-leading, innovation-driven animal health company, providing a comprehensive range of products to enhance the health, well-being and performance of a wide range of animals. Merial employs approximately 5,600 people and operates in more than 150 countries worldwide. Its 2010 sales were more than $2.6 billion. Merial is a Sanofi company.

For more information, visit

Important Safety Information:
Caution: Safety of Gastrogard in pregnant or lactating mares has not been determined.
Ulcergard can be used in horses that weigh at least 600 pounds. for more information click here:

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