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11: Probiotics and Hindgut Health for Horses
Episode 1119th December 2023 • Healing Horses with Elisha • Elisha Edwards
00:00:00 00:26:03

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This week, I dive into more ways to support a healthy equine microbiome.

In the last episode, I explained what a microbiome is and why it is essential for every aspect of a horse's health. If you have not already done so, I suggest you tune in to that episode to understand why supporting the microbiome is crucial for the hindgut and every organ in a horse’s body.

Maintaining Healthy Gut Bacteria

Maintaining a healthy population of bacteria in a horse's digestive system is essential, especially considering that 75% of their energy comes from fermenting fiber. When the balance gets disrupted due to poor feeding practices, exposure to toxicity or chemicals, or stress, health issues like colic, ulcers, fecal water syndrome, diarrhea, or immunity-related problems like scratches, rain rot, festering infections, and chronic thrush may arise. 

Creating a Supportive Environment

A supportive environment starts with carefully considering the horse's diet, avoiding high-sugar and high-protein intake, managing fat levels, minimizing exposure to chemicals and preservatives, and regulating pH levels.

How Medications and Stress Affect the Microbiome 

Apart from diet, medications and stress levels also significantly impact the equine microbiome. Medicines can alter bacterial populations, so it is always essential to evaluate how necessary they are and their potential side effects. Emotional or physical stress can elevate acidity levels in a horse’s body. That could affect their bacterial populations and cause inflammation. Assessing lifestyle factors, addressing stressors, and making necessary changes will all contribute to maintaining a healthy equine microbiome.

Introduction to Prebiotics for Gut Health

Providing your horse with prebiotics is a proactive way to support their gut health. Prebiotics are in the soluble and insoluble fibers of plants. Foraging horses can access their probiotics naturally from the grasses, leaves, and shrubs they eat. In a domestic setting, however, you must give those to your horse in a feed bucket. Beet pulp, chia seeds, cooked barley, cooked oats, and certain herbs are all options that will help in creating an environment conducive to healthy gut bacteria.

Understanding Probiotics and Their Benefits

Probiotics are living biological organisms crucial for modifying the microbiota, producing beneficial compounds, and enhancing intestinal immunity. Studies have shown that common strains, like bifidum and lactobacillus, positively affect equine digestive conditions, immunity, weight gain, and energy levels. When selecting probiotics, it is best to choose refrigerated options that do not contain any added ingredients.

Dosage and Timing of Probiotic Supplementation

Dosage for probiotics gets measured in colony forming units (CFUs), typically ranging from 50 to 100 billion CFUs for horses. Specific circumstances, such as post-deworming or antibiotic use, may warrant probiotic supplementation. 

How Effective are Probiotics?

Even though the studies on the survival of probiotics in the gastrointestinal tract vary, I have seen how effective probiotics are for improving gut health, especially in colic situations. Monitoring how your horse responds to probiotics will help you determine their efficacy. 

Assessing Probiotic Effectiveness

To truly understand the effectiveness of probiotics, you will need to observe their immediate benefits, re-evaluate after long-term use, and recognize the instances where they do not produce your desired outcome. If the probiotics consistently offer no improvement or cause adverse effects, you must reassess your horse's overall health, diet, and environment. 

Valuable Contributors to Gut Health

Probiotics are valuable contributors to gut health. They are most effective when you use them as part of a comprehensive approach to your horse's well-being.

Links and resources:

Connect with Elisha Edwards on her website 

Free Webinar Masterclass: Four Steps to Solving Equine Metabolic Syndrome Naturally




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