Keeping your horse’s gut healthy is essential for good digestion. Olivia Colton MSc, senior nutritionist at feedmark, explains the seven best ways to help.
Your horse's hindgut is where fibre is fermented by microbes to produce energy and certain vitamins.
It's important to keep your horse's hindgut healthy, as well as the balance of beneficial and harmful microbes that reside there, as an unhealthy gut can cause problems in his gastro-intestinal tract such as colic and acidosis.
How to keep your horse's hindgut healthy
1. Keep your horse hydrated
Dehydration increases the risk of hindgut issues, including impaction. If your horse is reluctant to drink, try soaking feeds or hay. Offering warm water can also encourage drinking.
2. Provide plenty of forage
Where possible, provide your horse with ad-lib forage. If this isn't an option, ensure forage is fed regularly. Too little forage increases the risk of colic, ulcers, and other digestive problems.
3. Keep high-starch feeds small
If you feed too much starch in one go, it gets pushed too quickly though the small intestine (where starch should be digested), and so enters the hindgut undigested.
It's then rapidly fermented, producing lactic acid and lowering the pH of the hindgut, which inhibits the population of fibre-fermenting microbes.
4. Try oil if your horse needs additional energy or condition
When added to the diet gradually, these are much kinder on the gut than high-carb diets.
5. Make any changes to the diet gradually
Abrupt changes can upset the delicate balance of microorganisms in the hindgut.
6. Avoid overusing oral antibiotics and wormers
Though necessary, prolonged use of antibiotics and wormers can harm the population of beneficial microbes within the hindgut.
7. Try prebiotics and probiotics
If your horse is prone to gut disturbances, or you've recently administered antibiotics or wormers, feeding a good quality prebiotic and probiotic supplement daily will help to promote the growth of good bacteria in the hind gut, and promote overall digestive health.
For more advice and tips on horse nutrition visit www.feedmark.com
Olivia heads up Feedmark’s team of expert nutritional advisors.
She spends the majority of her time with her horse and the small flock of Herdwicks and two Springers that she owns with her partner.
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