Learn the facts on the equine microbiome and horse digestion
Your horse cannot live without its microbiome. The equine microbiome is essential to horse digestion, immune system health, and vitamin synthesis.
A healthy equine microbiome is core to your horse’s overall health.
In this blog Nick answers your questions about the equine microbiome, horse digestion, and postbiotics.
What is The Equine Microbiome?
The equine microbiome is the collection of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other microorganisms that live in your horse. The bulk of the equine microbiome is found in the small and large intestines. The microbiome is also present and active in your horse’s lungs, skin, and nasal passages.
A healthy and balanced equine microbiome is essential to healthy digestion. The microbiome has a critical role in breaking down feed, nutrient absorption, and immune system support.
Your horse’s microbiome is unique and influenced by DNA, diet, supplements, environment, and medication.
What Does the Equine Microbiome Do?
The equine microbiome is essential to healthy digestion, immune system support, and nutrient absorption.
Researchers at the Department of Pathology at the University of Guelph Veterinary College believe the equine microbiome does the following:
- Boosts the horse’s immune system
- Ferments fiber in the hindgut to produce short chain fatty acids that your horse uses for energy
- Inhibits the development and absorption of toxins
- Produces antimicrobial elements that help limit the development of disease-causing microbes
Where Does My Horse’s Microbiome Come From?
Your horse’s microbiome starts with your horse’s DNA and the birth process. During birth, your horse was exposed to a microorganisms in the birth canal, from mare’s milk and colostrum, and environment.
As a foal, your horse is exposed to more microorganisms as they graze, nurse, and eat carbohydrates and faeces (coprophagia). At 60 days of age, your horse has a stable microbiome.
This base microbiome changes based on environmental factors, diet, supplements, and stress.
What are Postbiotics?
Postbiotics are bioactive compounds. They are produced by a combination of prebiotics and probiotics in the hindgut.
Postbiotics are shown to increase blood oxygen levels, reduce recovery times from lactic acid accumulation, act as a barrier to harmful bacteria, and support intestinal health.
Why Does My Horse Need Digestive Support?
Your horse needs digestive support because the health and function the digestive system impacts your horse’s health and well-being. In fact, the digestive system is the most critical component in the overall health of your horse.
The horse digestion process relies on fermentation for maximum absorption of nutrients and energy conversion from feed and supplements. This occurs in the hindgut, primarily in the cecum and large intestine.
The fermentation process is powered by the bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms – the equine microbiome. During fermentation, fiber and short chain fatty acids are converted into carbohydrates, providing energy to your horse.
The stomach and small intestine are responsible for the breakdown of food. 80 – 90 percent of the fats, amino acids, and vitamins are absorbed through the small intestine. It takes 6 – 8 hours for feed to pass through the small intestine to the large intestine.
Even though horses have not evolved to digest large amounts of grain, horses are still routinely fed grain-focused diets. This has resulted in high levels of metabolic problems, leaky gut, and other digestive challenges.
How Can I Help My Horse’s Digestion?
To help support your horse’s digestion, these strategies can help:
- Minimize grain: because grains are high in starches and sugars, they can cause digestive issues including colic and laminitis. Do not feed your horse large amounts of grain.
- Hay first: feed your horse hay and then grain, this can enable a more complete digestion process. When your horse eats grain first and then hay, food moves through the stomach and small intestine too quickly, resulting in compromised digestion.
- Constant feeding: your horse’s digestive tract is designed always be working. Horses on restrictive feeding schedules of one or two meals a day, are prone to gastric ulcers due to the acid accumulation in an empty stomach.
- Priority on high quality forage: the quality of the forage you feed your horse has impacts on every aspect of your horse’s health.
- Pasture turnout: your horse’s digestive tract is designed for grazing. The more time your horse can spend in the pasture, the better their overall digestion and health.
As a general recommendation, we suggest horse owners look at alternatives to grain.
At Grand Meadows, we believe in a forage first diet using fat instead of grain for calories and a well-balanced supplement to help ensure your horse meets optimal nutrient levels for overall health.
To learn more about your horse’s digestive process and how you can support it, start with our Digestion Primer:
Followed by our other videos in the series:
How Do I Know If My Horse Needs Postbiotics?
The following characteristics may indicate your horse needs postbiotics for digestive support:
- Dull coat
- Weight challenges
- Behavioral challenges
- Stress and demands of training and competition
Always contact your veterinarian with any questions and concerns about your horse’s health and well-being.
If you do decide to use a horse postbiotic supplement, make sure it contains Dried Saccharomyces Cerevisiae Postbiotic Fermentation Product.
The benefits of Dried Saccharomyces Cerevisiae Postbiotic Fermentation Product include:
- A fully fermented, stable yeast culture that works as a perfect digestive aid, supplying a long list of beneficial enzymes and bacteria to the small and large intestine.
- Boosts the breakdown of fibrous feed digestion and stabilizes pH to safeguard the stomach lining against excess gastric acid.
- Provides mannooligosaccharides which are crucially important in bacteria scavenging in the small intestine.
- Boosts the efficient function of the large intestine and is therefore critical in helping support the immune system as B vitamins are produced in the large intestine.
To learn more about postbiotics and your horse – make sure you read our Postbiotics for Horses FAQ.
Always contact your veterinarian with any questions about your horse’s health and well-being.