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  • April 27, 2023 4 min read 1 Comment

    The Key to a Healthy Hindgut 

    We all want our horses to be in good physical and mental condition, and in order to maintain their overall health and wellbeing, it is essential for our horses to have a healthy hindgut. The horse's hindgut consists of two parts, the caecum and colon. The caecum is a large muscular sac that is essentially a fermentation chamber where fibrous material is broken down by bacteria and other microorganisms. The colon's function however is to absorb water and electrolytes from the digesta before it is eliminated as feces. The health of the hindgut is important for the horse's overall health, and several factors can affect it. In this article, we will discuss how to keep a horse's hindgut healthy.

    1. Provide plenty of high-quality forage 

    Forage is the foundation of a horse's diet, and it is essential for maintaining a healthy hindgut. Horses are designed to graze for most of the day, and their digestive system requires a constant supply of fibrous material to function properly. Providing high-quality hay or pasture is the best way to ensure that a horse's hindgut is healthy. Hay should be clean, free of dust and mold, and have a good balance of nutrients. If a horse does not have access to pasture or hay, it may be necessary to supplement its diet with hay cubes or pellets. It is recommended that a horse consumes 1.5% to 2% of its body weight in forage per hay. 

    Feeding a variety of forages, such as a combination of hays and legumes, will also help to increase the bacterial population of the gut. Gut bacteria is essential for the breakdown and fermentation of food, so it is crucial that a strong and robust bacteria population is maintained. Feeding a variety of fibres such as meadow and lucerne hays along with beet pulp and lupin fibres, will help strengthen these populations. If your horse has access to pasture, then it is advised to sow a variety of horse safe grasses, to once again increase the gut bacteria. 

    2. Avoid sudden change 

    Horses have a sensitive digestive system, and sudden changes in diet can disrupt the balance of microorganisms in the hindgut. This can lead to digestive upset, colic, and other health problems. If it is necessary to change a horse's diet, it should be done gradually over a period of 7-10 days. This allows the horse's digestive system to adjust to the new feed gradually.

    3. Provide clean, fresh water

    Clean, fresh water is essential for maintaining a healthy digestive system. Horses require a lot of water, and they should have access to clean water at all times. Water should be changed daily, and buckets and troughs should be cleaned regularly to prevent the buildup of bacteria and other microorganisms.

    4. Use prebiotics and probiotics 

    Prebiotics and probiotics can be beneficial for maintaining a healthy hindgut. Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the hindgut. Probiotics are live microorganisms that can be added to a horse's diet to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria. Probiotics can be especially helpful after a course of antibiotics, which can disrupt the balance of microorganisms in the hindgut. There are a variety of pre and probiotic supplements available on the market. Our best sellers include yea-saac, bio-mos, EAC Inside-out, Digestive EQ, Protexin and Hygain Digest & Protect.

    5. Avoid overfeeding, and feed cooked grain 

    Grain is a concentrated source of energy, and it can be useful for horses that are in heavy work or need to gain weight. However, overfeeding grain can lead to digestive upset and other health problems, such as hindgut acidosis, ulcers or laminitis. Grain should be fed in small amounts, and should also be cooked (I.e. Micronized, extruded or boiled). This will prevent grains from being fermented in the hindgut, which will help keep bacterial populations healthy, and prevent any gut diseases.

    6. Remove sand regularly 

    We all know sand build up can cause a multitude of problems for horses, such as colic. By removing sand regularly, we keep the hind gut healthy. Feeding psyllium husk for 5 days each month, will help to flush out sand. The recommended dosage is 50g to 70g per 100kg of bodyweight per day. Psyllium husk will need to be fed dry (as it absorbs water). If your horse does not take to eating psyllium husk on its own, you can also buy it pelleted, as in the case with Sandflush or EAC In-sandout. Another popular option are psyllium bars by Alternate Touch Equine.

    7. Avoid prolonged use of oral antibiotics and oral pain relief

    It is well known that antibiotics can cause havoc to gut bacteria, but did you know that NSAIDs such as Bute can too? If you need to provide an antibiotic to your horse, try to have your vet give an injectable one, which will help preserve gut bacteria populations. Further, if your horse has to be on pain relief for an extended period, ask your vet to prescribe a NSAID that is gentler on the gut. 

    8. Provide regular exercise 

    Regular exercise is essential for maintaining a healthy digestive system. Exercise helps to stimulate gut motility, which is the movement of digesta through the digestive system. Exercise also helps to maintain a healthy weight, which is important for preventing digestive problems such as colic. 

    9. Monitor for signs of digestive upset 

    It is important to monitor a horse's behavior and appetite for signs of digestive upset. Signs of digestive upset may include decreased appetite, lethargy, colic symptoms, and diarrhea. If a horse exhibits any of these symptoms, it should be evaluated by a veterinarian.

    Maintaining a healthy gut is essential for a horse's overall health and wellbeing. At Oakford Stockfeeds, we are here to help. If you need any advice in relation to products that may assist the health of your horse, please visit us in store or online. 

    1 Response

    Allan Hamilton
    Allan Hamilton

    April 30, 2023

    Great reading, keep up the good work 🐎😀

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