Your Equine Microbiome and Digestion FAQ

Equine Microbiome and Digestion FAQ

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Priority on high quality forage: the quality of the forage you feed your horse has impacts on every aspect of your horse’s health.
  5. 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.

Postbiotics for Horses FAQ: Answers to Your Questions About Postbiotics for Horses

Postbiotics for Horses FAQ

Postbiotics are bioactive compounds created when the probiotics in your horse’s gut consume and digest fiber (prebiotics).

Postbiotics are shown to increase blood oxygen level, reduce recovery times from lactic acid accumulation, support intestinal health, and act as a barrier to harmful bacteria.

Learn more about postbiotics and horse digestion with this Q & A with Nick – the chief of everything at Grand Meadows.

What are Postbiotics?

Postbiotics are produced by the combination of prebiotics and probiotics in the hindgut. Postbiotic horse supplements may provide a broad spectrum of nutrients affecting a multitude of functions in the horse.

The support of a healthy hindgut function hinges on whether there are sufficient probiotics and prebiotics.

Continue reading

Your Seasonal Horse Care Checklist Hub

Your Seasonal Horse Care Checklist Hub

Know how to care for your horse based on the season and changing weather demands

Your horse’s needs change with the seasons. Blanketing, extra electrolytes, providing shade, hoof care, brushing and grooming, and exercise duration and timing all fluctuate based on the season.

Along with being in-tune with your horse’s signals and day-to-day needs, you need to stay on top of how your horse is thriving and responding to the temperature and their environment.

Use this seasonal horse care checklist hub as your information hub for all aspects of seasonal horse care, including:

  • 7 keys to caring for your horse in the fall
  • 7 essentials to winter horse care
  • 9 winter horse care myths busted
  • Hot weather horse riding and care tips
  • General horse care tips including first aid, nutrition, and joint health

Always contact your veterinarian with your questions about your horse’s health and behavior.

Your Fall Horse Care Checklist

These 7 fall horse care essentials are a good refresher of things to keep in mind as you get ready for fall:

  1. Monitor your horse’s caloric intake: fall is a transition period for your horse’s diet. Many horse owners ride less due to cooler weather – when this happens you need to adjust your horse’s nutrition.
  2. Ensure your horse is up to date on deworming: parasites have a relentless lifecycle, and their eggs often thrive when the weather cools down. Make sure you know the signs of a parasite infection and contact your veterinarian if you see any symptoms.
  3. Add more hay to your horse’s diet: increasing hay to your horse’s diet during the fall is critical since they have less fresh grass to eat. Make sure you follow the recommendations from the Association of Equine Practitioners on the amount of hay to feed your horse.
  4. Review your horse’s overall health and wellness: stay on top of your horse’s day-to-day health needs including hoof, teeth, coat, and joint care. Remember your horse is adept at hiding signs of discomfort.
  5. Keep an eye out for laminitis: this common horse condition can happen at any time of the year, but horses in the early stages of Cushing’s Disease or with insulin resistance have an increased chance of getting this inflammatory disease in the fall.
  6. Check for drafts in your barn: fall is the ideal time for you to check your barn and outdoor sheds for drafty areas. It’s important to find the balance between easy access to fresh air and eliminating bone-chilling drafts.
  7. Make gradual exercise changes: pay attention to how your horse responds to any changes in exercise and scheduling. If your horse shows signs of not wanting to ride or seems agitated, these can be indicators your horse is not adjusting to schedule changes.

Read our Fall Horse Care Checklist: 7 Horse Care Tips to Remember blog for in-depth details about these 7 essential fall horse care must-do’s.

Your Winter Horse Care Checklist Guide

Your horse should not shiver, lose weight, or stop exercising in the cold months. Attention to winter horse care is important regardless of the amount of snowy, rainy, and sub-zero days you experience.

Remember these 7 basics of winter horse care:

  1. Proper winter shelter: a safe, sturdy shelter helps your horse stay warm and protected from snow, rain, sleet, wind, and damp. Horses intuitively use shelter when the weather is at its worst – make sure your horse has an accessible stable or open-sided shed.
  2. Pay attention to calories: horses struggle to stay warm in cooler weather and this translates to needing more calories to maintain weight. Pay attention to fluctuations in the weather forecast and how these impact your horse’s eating habits.
  3. Keep your horse drinking: your horse needs more water in the winter – this is a fact. At a minimum, your horse needs to drink 5 liters for every 100kg of body weight daily. Read our How to Care for Your Horse in the Winter blog for tips on how to get your horse to drink in the winter.
  4. Winter exercise is a must: the winter weather is not a reason to limit exercise or to stop riding. Doing so can result in health conditions such as lower leg swelling. Use your judgement about winter exercise based on the weather and ground conditions.
  5. Keep hooves healthy: always check your horse’s hooves for accumulated balls of ice or snow. A buildup of snow or ice makes it difficult for your horse to walk properly, causing balance issues, and ultimately damaging tendons or causing your horse to slip and fall.
  6. Be aware of skin and coat issues: maintain a regular bathing schedule and use warm water and a damp sponge to care for your horse’s coat and skin. Keep up your regular grooming and brushing routine – your horse enjoys this, and it keeps their coat healthy.
  7. Know when to blanket: in general, you want to wait until after the winter solstice to blanket your horse. Remember to keep the blanket dry, make sure it is not chafing or rubbing, and to only blanket a dry horse.

Winter horse care comes down to paying attention to the details. Read How to Care for Your Horse in the Winter where we discuss the 7 essentials of winter horse care in more detail.

Share the Grand Meadows Busts 9 Winter Horse Care Myths blog with friends and family who are new to horses and riding. And yes, we do hear these myths more often than we’d like to admit!

Your Summer Horse Care Checklist

The summer weather puts your horse at risk for dehydration, heat-stroke, sunburn, fatigue, diarrhea, colic, and a general feeling of exhaustion.

As you plan your summer riding season, keep in mind these basics of summer horse care:

  • Your horse and hot summer riding and work: your horse’s mood, energy levels, skin and coat health, and drinking habits are affected by the heat and humidity. We highlight 4 factors you need to remember when you take your horse out for exercise in the summer.
  • How to keep your horse hydrated: hot weather is very draining on your horse and puts them at risk for dehydration. It’s important that you keep tabs on your horse’s hydration levels – paying attention to how much your horse is sweating, their mood, how much (or how little) they are drinking, and your horse’s appetite. Make sure you know our 4 tips to help keep your horse hydrated.
  • How to keep your horse safe and comfortable in hot weather: read and share our 9 tips on how to keep your horse safe and comfortable in hot weather. Tips like being aware of sunburn and slowing down and taking breaks in hot weather may seem obvious, but it’s super easy to lose track of how long you’ve been outside with your horse.
  • The signs of heat stroke in horses: in our summer horse care blog we emphasize 4 signs of heat stroke in your horse. Please memorize these and talk to your riding friends about heat stroke and make sure they know the signs of heat stroke.

Remember, if it feels hot to you – then it’s too hot for your horse. Don’t take risks with your horse’s health for the sake of a ride.

Horse Care Articles and Resources

These articles are a great resource, for experienced and new horse riders and owners:

  • 9 Signs of a Healthy Horse You Need to Know
    Learn how to monitor your horse’s vital signs, appetite and water consumption, bowel movements, gum color, hoof health, mood and behavior, gut noises, coat health, and body weight.
  • How to Check Your Horse’s Temperature, Pulse, and Respiration Rate
    When you have a baseline for your horse’s temperature, pulse, and respiration (TPR) rate you can more easily and quickly catch health problems. Learn why you need to check your horse’s TPR and how to safely monitor these vital signs.
  • Feeding Your Horse: 5 Horse Nutrition Tips and Advice for a Healthy Horse
    To ensure nutritional balance, you must understand the ins and outs of your horse’s nutritional needs. Just like us humans, your horse is what they eat. Remember these 5 horse nutrition tips to help keep your horse healthy and active.
  • 5 Things You Need to Know About Your Horse’s Teeth
    The health of your horse’s teeth and gums tell you a lot about their overall health and wellness. Learn the signs of tooth and gum discomfort and how to properly care for your horse’s teeth.
  • Horse Hoof Care: What You Need to Know
    Ensuring your horse has healthy, strong, and well-cared for hooves is an essential part of horse ownership and riding. Learn about horse hoof basics, common horse hoof problems, and 4 essentials to good horse hoof care.
  • Healthy Coat: How to Give Your Horse a Healthy Coat and Improve Their Health
    Brittle coats, dryness, lack of shedding, and dull color are all signs that your horse is not feeling their best. Your horse should have a shiny glossy coat. Learn how to give your horse a healthy coat and know what your horse’s coat is telling you about your horse’s health.
  • Horse First Aid Basics You Need to Know
    Having a horse first aid kit and understanding the basics of horse health is the first step in ensuring your horse remains in good health. Learn how to setup a horse first aid kit and how to be ready for horse emergencies.
  • The What, How, and Why of Horse Joint Supplements
    The challenge for many horse owners is in knowing which horse joint supplement is right for your horse. Learn the facts on horse joint supplements so you can make the right decisions for your horse and their health.

Please remember to contact your veterinarian with any questions or concerns you have about your horse and their health. Do not hesitate – ask your questions – it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Your Senior Horse Guide

Senior Horse Care

This is your reliable resource for all aspects of senior horse care and health

The good news is that horses are living longer. It’s not uncommon for horses to live well into their 30’s.

And just like us humans, your horse has new concerns and issues as they age. While you can’t stop your horse form aging, you can do a lot to lessen the impacts of age-related conditions.

In this senior horse guide, we’ve pulled together our top resources on senior horse health, care, and management – we want you to have easy access to trusted content about your senior horse.

Before making any changes to your horse’s diet, exercise routine, or medication, please consult your veterinarian.

Continue reading

Your Healthy Horse Guide

9 Signs of a Healthy Horse

This complete guide to having a healthy horse is your go-to healthy horse resource.

Your horse relies on you for every aspect of their health and wellness. Because of this, you have a very special connection with your horse.

Just as your horse responds to your mood, body signals, and how you behave around them, you need to be in-tune with your horse and the signals they’re giving you. These signals are your horse’s way of telling you when they’re stressed, happy, not feeling well, or even when they want some alone time.

We know this can feel intimidating – and this is exactly why we created this healthy horse guide.

In this guide we share with you everything we know about caring for and supporting your horse.

Above all else, know that there is a fantastic horse community out there, ready to help you with any questions or concerns you have about your horse and their health. Be sure to read our profiles with horse trainers Dani Sussman and Lynn Acton.

Use this healthy horse guide to learn about:

  • What a healthy horse is – including 9 signs of a healthy horse and how to check your horse’s temperature, pulse, and respiration rate
  • Getting to know your horse’s body – including 5 things you need to know about horse teeth, horse hoof care tips, and how to give your horse a healthy coat
  • The importance of horse joint health – including the what, how, and why of horse joint supplements and how to naturally support horse joint health
  • The science of horse health – including learning how joints function, the facts on hoof and coat health, and understanding horse digestion and immunity
Continue reading