Modern Frontier

KoolSpeed Equine Performance Feeds

Keeping your horse kool without losing speed

By Summer Terry

According to the American Association of Equine Practitioners, up to 90% of performing horses will experience gastric ulcers at some point throughout their careers. Stress can bring on symptoms of ulcers in as little as five days, so owners must educate themselves to look for subtle signs to catch the problem early.

Aaron Custer, owner of Mannsville Ag Center, began to look for a solution to help balance the gut in horses working under high-stress situations. “Customers would call me saying their horse had stopped eating grain, wasn’t performing up to standard or had even begun to have alley issues,” he recalls.

These concerns can all be the initial symptoms of ulcers. So he began developing KoolSpeed and working with veterinarians to uncover what causes gastric upset in horses. His goal was to create an all-natural feed that balances the pH without chemically manipulating the body. He believed the body could resolve ulcers on its own through finding a balance in nutritional levels.

Ulcers are not considered a disease. They are a reaction to stress, pain and improper feeding management. Horses are forage-based animals, meaning they need to eat continually throughout the day. Unlike humans, horses constantly produce stomach acid. Stress lowers pH in the gut, which creates more acid. That acid splashes up on the protective lining of the stomach, which gives ulcers a place to form. Also unlike in humans, equine ulcers cannot be caused by bacterial infection.

Overuse of some pharmaceuticals, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, are another cause of ulcers because they decrease the production of the stomach’s protective mucous layer. To determine the severity of ulcers, a vet will use a scope to look into the stomach and then create a treatment plan.

This is where keeping detailed records will help get to the origin of the problem. Was the horse recently moved to a new barn? Has there been a change in training routine? Has his demeanor changed? Some signs are very obvious, such as standing stretched out, pain with cinching your saddle, grinding teeth or kicking the trailer. Other signs are subtle, like dull hair coat, shortened stride, acting cold-backed under saddle, not allowing the farrier to stretch out legs, or lethargy. Horses that frequently get cast against the walls of their stalls are sometimes trying to relieve gastric pain by being on their backs. This is where it’s important to know your horse and schedule a vet evaluation to rule out issues before they grow into bigger problems.

The KoolSpeed journey began in 2013 with Custer finding a small group of horses to test the feed for 30 days. The horses were scoped at the beginning and end of the study. The results were exactly as Custer had hoped. When paired with a constant supply of good forage, the gut returned to a healthier state, and the ulcers healed. Every horse in the study was deemed clear of ulcers. KoolSpeed was a success.

But as with most things, it is not a magic pill or cure. You still have to figure out the root of the cause to continue the progress that is made with each horse. For instance, if a pain issue caused the ulcers to develop, you still must address that to keep that gut functioning normally. Ulcers are also commonly found in horses being treated for EPM and in horses that bleed during competition. Even a simple change in tack or his or her dynamics can cause enough stress to upset the stomach.

The design of KoolSpeed closely mimics the grazing diet that horses naturally have. The feed is forage-based and has a bit of a course texture, which makes horses produce more saliva. Not only does saliva help break down feed, it also has an important buffering effect, which reduces acid in the stomach.

Custer recommends feeding at least twice a day with a constant supply of hay or pasture. The horse will be able to utilize the most nutrients by breaking up feed into smaller portions. Fat, protein and carbohydrate needs are decided by the activity level of the horse, and KoolSpeed has formulas to meet these individual needs.

Correct nutrition plays such an important role in every aspect of a horse’s life. Nutrients are responsible for how a horse develops from conception and throughout its life. Foals lacking nutrition can end up with joints, tendons and muscles that do not develop properly, which causes stress on the animal, not to mention vet bills for the owner.

So many times, nutrition is overlooked as the cause for soreness. Horses that lack a topline tend to be hard to fit saddles to. Tack that doesn’t fit causes soreness and stress that will eventually lead to ulcers. Horses that are deemed “hard keepers” could be horses that are being fed an unbalanced diet and have undiagnosed ulcers. Adding more feed or supplements sounds like a good idea, but it can push the body farther out of balance without a correct foundation of nutrition. Nutrition is also vital to horses that are healing from injury or illness. The body cannot heal correctly if the nutrients are depleted.

Horse owners across Oklahoma started what they called the “KoolSpeed 30 Day Challenge,” where they fed the feed for a month and tracked the progress on their horses with before and after pictures. Positive results flooded the KoolSpeed website. The older youth horses were easier to keep weight on and performed better than ever. The young futurity horses were showing more focus and willingness to perform.

Dona Kay Rule, NFR qualifier, had a horse in the initial test group in 2013 and immediately switched her rodeo horses over. “I have found that it keeps them satisfied and calm without losing any speed or performance,” she said. Her horse, High Valor, has excelled at every level of barrel racing and rodeo event, including winning a round at the NFR in 2019. He was the 2019 AQHA horse of the year and placed 2nd at RFD-TV’s The American.

Today, Mannsville Ag Center ships KoolSpeed to 11 states and is growing in demand across the U.S. Custer’s customers range from the occasional trail rider to high-end racehorse facilities.

Ulcers are a common issue in every discipline, and every horse owner just wants to be able to improve the quality of life for his or her horse. Custer says KoolSpeed feeds an estimated 1,200 horses per day, many in veterinary clinics and rehab facilities. “KoolSpeed was never intended to replace veterinary care or medication; the idea is to keep these horses happy, healthy and performing for a long career,” he says. “Being able to have veterinarians working alongside our program, scoping horses and seeing the results along with our customers helps everyone to take the best care of the horse. At the end of the day, we are all just trying to be better horsemen.”

KoolSpeed grew from the need to find a permanent solution to a frequent problem that performance horse owners face on a daily basis. Ulcers are common yet can be overwhelming for owners who don’t fully understand where they come from. Knowing the signs to look for, having the correct nutrition, working with a knowledgeable veterinarian and keeping track of changes in your horse will help save you grief and money down the road.


OklahomaHorses Magazine and its companion website provide Oklahoma horse enthusiasts with the perspectives of a bi-monthly magazine, the interactive, up-to-the-minute insights of a statewide news source, and the humane conscience and social media involvement of the Oklahoma horse community. Only here will you find a one-step resource for local horse products, services and events as well as adoption and care information. All of it is sprinkled with lots of pictures of Oklahoma horses and their riders!