Together, these microbes convert carbohydrate-based contents, essentially plant-based fiber, into volatile fatty acids (Via), which provide energy to the horse. If soluble carbohydrates, such as those found in large supply in grain meals, find their way into the hind gut, some lactate might be produced.
In many horses, this manifests as poor appetite, crabby disposition, recurrent colic, and onset of certain stable vices, such as stall-walking and cribbing. If a horse requires more than 5 lb (2.25 kg) of concentrate per day, divide total daily allotment into separate meals.
This is in contrast to ruminants, such as cattle, goats, and sheep, that are fore gut fermentors with a lumen and multi compartment stomach. Being a hind gut fermentor is a huge advantage to horses because it essentially gives them a second chance to process energy from feed that has already passed through the small intestine.
Cecal impactions with feed material are fairly common in post-foaling mares and horses that are hospitalized and treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (phenylbutazone or fountain melamine). The convoluted course of the large intestine and its relative lack of any anchoring ligaments make it susceptible to displacements and twists.
Right dorsal colitis is an ulcerative condition that has been associated with administration of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and it usually leads to low blood protein concentration and intermittent colic. The small colon is the final part of the large intestine, and it is where fecal balls are produced.
Examination of the large intestine without exploratory surgery can be difficult because of its sheer size and inaccessibility. Similarly, with our horses, we may notice they lose weight, have a change in behavior, their coat becomes dull, or they suffer health wise with ulcers, colic or poor immunity.
You are excited beyond belief as it is everything you have ever dreamed of… your favorite color, the right size, new sheepskin car seat covers, customized number plates, great tires, airbags and best of all it has climate control. It doesn’t take long before you notice your car isn’t accelerating as well it was before and soon it starts backfiring and stalling.
Our horses rely on microbes to convert fiber into energy and other essential nutrients as they don’t have the enzymes necessary to do so themselves. This means that we must keep these fiber fermenting microbes happy to help best meet our horse’s energy requirement and maintain the production of these essential vitamins.
These are in smaller numbers then the fiber fermenting bacteria, unless conditions become more favorable for them including lots of food e.g. So, like our car that started backfiring and stalling due to the wrong fuel being used, our horses can experience gastric upset (e.g.
Colic), reduced appetite, changes in behavior, weak hooves, dull coat or start to lose weight. The intestinal lining becomes inflamed and in severe cases, the good fiber fermenting bacteria die, releasing toxins which are absorbed into the bloodstream and may cause laminates.
We know that too much starch from grain-based feed ingredients and sugar from molasses are not the fuel our horses were designed to be filled with. This means that when we are looking at our horses diets, providing fuel in the form of fiber from low-sugar forages should be our priority.
Maintaining a healthy hind gut will assist in preventing many health issues and ensure your horse is running efficiently and performing at their best. Let’s briefly go over your horse’s digestive system, from rooter to tooter.
Let’s dive into the hind gut and see what’s going on with respect to acidosis and pH. A horse’s gut pH is a measure of how acidic the environment is.
The hind gut of a horse usually has a pH of about 6.5 to 7, so fairly neutral. The fiber loving microbes are responsible for fermentation and filling the energy needs of your horse.
When these sugar lovers “poop”, their by-products are acidic and can lower the pH of the hind gut. But… the fiber loving microbes can’t tolerate the lower pH.
This allows the endorphins to escape into the bloodstream, where they can create all sorts of problems, including colic and laminates. Complicated by the fact that they are trickier to diagnose than gastric ulcers, which can be seen during endoscopy.
These hind gut ulcers happen while the lining of the intestinal walls and mucosa start to erode and slough away. Ulcers in the hind gut are prevalent in roughly 60% of horses, depending on what study you read.
It’s understood that hind gut ulcers are more likely to happen in performance horses. The signs of hind gut acidosis and ulcers is long and mostly vague.
Depending on the overall state of your horse’s hind gut, medications may be prescribed. I recommend doing research here into the best ones, there are many supplements based on marketing with zero science to back them up.
I use a KER hind gut buffer, it’s been studied with proven results. Because this all starts with starch and sugar hitting your horse’s hind gut in large volumes, it’s important to make sure this is all spread out.
It gives your horse more time to break down the food, so that the hind gut isn't overwhelmed with starch and sugars. There's an adjustment period, just as it's a good idea to switch foods over a few weeks.
Take your horse off pasture when the grass is stressed and producing too much sugar. This happens in early spring and fall, when there are growth spurts of grass.
Learn what type of grass your horse is eating, how and when it grows, and turn out accordingly. Use slow feeders and hay nets so your horse nibbles all day.
Nice and slow, keeping the digestive system balanced and happy and moving along. Avoid raw grain diets, these allow too much starch to reach the hind gut.
Weekend warrior horses that are ridden hard and stand around the rest of the week will be stressed. Travel and shows and ever-changing environments can create stress for your horse.
Don't forget to focus on the big picture with your horse, and get your Vet involved. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases, which are not a penny more for you.
You can't go wrong with a small hole slow feeder. The Horse Health column is sponsored by Martial, the Official Supplement Feeding System of the Used.
While your horse’s stomach is relatively small, accounting for less than 10 percent of his total digestive capacity, it can cause some pretty big problems, including gastric ulcers. Used/Leslie Mint Photo. Your horse’s body was designed for constant grazing (about 10-17 hours per day), which means the stomach is almost never empty.
Often, a horse’s diet is composed of infrequent meals of hay and grain, with most of the day spent with an empty stomach. Add to the mix that stress from training, travel, competition, and more can also contribute to ulcers, and you’ve got a recipe for an unhappy stomach.
Reluctance to eat or drink Worsening attitude Less-than-optimal performance Dull hair coat Weight loss Agitation at feeding time Mild, recurrent abdominal pain If your horse has been diagnosed with gastric ulcers, you should work with your veterinarian to develop a treatment plan, which may include FDA-approved prescription medication.
The risk factors for occasional gastric upset include training, traveling, competing, or infrequent hay feedings. If your horse is exposed to any of these factors, a combination of daily support from a supplement and smart management can help ensure he has what he needs for a healthy stomach.
Look for supplements that provide ingredients like calcium and magnesium to help neutralize gastric acid, as well as glut amine, glycine, and soothing herbs to support healthy stomach lining. Other management tips to consider include increasing turnout time, limiting the use of NSAIDs (such as But), and making any changes to his routine or workload as gradually as possible.
Changes in hay, including switching types or feeding a new cut, can increase your horse’s chances of developing colic by 10 times. In addition, changing grain (type or amount) can increase a horse’s colic risk up to five times.
Other proven risk factors include large amounts of grain, a change in activity level, lack of access to water, increased stall time, and parasites. While nothing can prevent occasional digestive upset, working with your veterinarian to ensure your horse is being managed and fed appropriately may reduce his risk level.
One approach your vet may recommend is daily support from a supplement to help your horse cope with digestive stress. When choosing a digestive supplement for your horse, look for a formula that provides comprehensive support for a healthy, balanced hind gut.
Perhaps the most common ingredient horse owners look for is probiotics, which are live microorganisms that play a key role in the digestive process. It’s also important to work closely with your veterinarian to develop a wellness program that supports optimal health.
The first section has similarities to the precancel digestive system of a monogastric animal such as the dog, man or pig. The cow benefits by having the microbial breakdown of fibrous food at the start of the GIT (gastrointestinal tract) and nutrient absorption can then take place along the entire intestine.
They can be quite selective as many of us would have seen powdered supplements or pellets in a nice little pile at the bottle of the feed bin. Feeds are mixed with saliva in the mouth to make a moist bolus that can be easily swallowed.
This allows the feed to be effectively ground and mixed with saliva to initiate the digestive process. The size of the horse also effects the time and amount of jaw sweeps it takes to sufficiently masticate the feed.
The average 500 kg horse generally takes 40 minutes and 3400 jaw sweeps to consume one kilogram of hay. Oats on the other hand only take 10 minutes and 850 jaw sweeps for the mature horse and up to five times longer for ponies.
When horses chew fibrous feeds such as hay or pasture it is a long jaw sweep action. Grains are consumed in a shorter sweep which does not extend past the outer edge of the teeth.
When large amount of grain are fed, horses chewing action will be changed and the teeth will not be worn evenly. If teeth are not properly 'floated' or rasped the rate of intake, chewing efficiency, appetite and temperament can be seriously affected.
Join Dr Ross Tetzel a renowned Equine Veterinarian based in Melbourne, Victoria, stepping you through the horses digestive tract from head to tail in this detailed video. The stomach of the horse is small in relation to the size of the animal and makes up only 10% of the capacity of the digestive system or 9-15 liters in volume.
Horses are now expected to eat large amounts of grain feed once or twice a day to suit our lifestyle. It has been established that we can improve the digestive efficiency of a horse by feeding small meals often (assimilate natural grazing), but this has been weighed against the labor costs of doing so.
In the stomach, feed is mixed with pepsin (an enzyme to digest proteins) and hydrochloric acid to help break down solid particles. The rate of passage of feed through the stomach is highly variable, depending on how the horse is fed.
Because of their density, grains tend to stay in the stomach longer, but it has not been proved to be advantageous to feed either first. The stomach has 3 main areas; the Marcus caucus, funding and pyloric regions.
The proteolytic activity (protein digestion) in this area is 15-20 times that of the funding region. Changed feeding practices have led to long periods of the day when horses stomachs are virtually empty.
Feeding horses a higher proportion of roughage in their diet, small frequent meals and allow them ability to graze will dramatically reduce the frequency and severity of stomach ulcers. The small intestine is approximately 28% of the horses digestive tract, is 15-22 m long and has a volume of 55-70 liters.
In the small intestine the digestive processes (enzymatic breakdown of proteins, fats, starches and sugars) are similar to those of other monogastric animals but the activity of several of the enzymes in the chyme (food mix), in particular amylase, are lower than in other monogastric animals. Pancreatic enzymes will help digest the food; carbohydrates digest sugars and starches; pro teases break proteins down into amino acids; lipases and bile from the liver is added to emulsify (break into smaller units) fats and to suspend the fat in water.
Bile constantly flows into the small intestine from the liver because the horse does not have a gall bladder in which to store it. The pancreatic juice also contains some alkali and bicarbonates, which buffer the acid ingest (feed bolus) leaving the stomach, and help maintain an optimal environment for the functioning of the digestive enzymes.
After the feed has been digested, it is absorbed through the walls of the small intestine and carried off by the blood stream to whatever cells need the nutrients. Fat soluble vitamins A, D E and K are absorbed in the small intestine as well as some minerals such as calcium and some phosphorous.
Changing the structure of carbohydrates of the feed by processes such as ionization greatly increases the grains' digestibility in the small intestine to around 90%. The quicker the digest moves through the small intestine the less time the enzymes have to act.
Unlike the cow that has bacteria in the lumen that can detoxify materials before they reach the small intestine, toxic material a horse may consume enters the intestine and is absorbed into the blood stream before it can be detoxified. Urea is a feed supplement fed to cattle that can be utilized in their lumen to make protein.
Microbial protein, which is synthesized in the large intestine, cannot be utilized to any great extent by the horse. This means that animals with a high demand for protein (foals, lactating mares and probably intensively exercising horses) must be fed high quality protein which can be broken down and absorbed primarily in the small intestine.
The hind gut comprises 62% of the entire gut is approximately 7 meters in length and has a volume of 140-150L. Digestion in the hind gut is performed by billions of symbiotic bacteria which efficiently break down plant fibers and undigested starches into simpler compounds call volatile fatty acids (Via's) which can be absorbed through the gut wall.
And equips have reduced these disadvantages by selectively grazing large amounts of feed each day. The cecum is a blind sack approximately 1.2 m long that can hold around 28-36 liters of feed and fluid.
This design is the cause of problems if an animal eats a lot of dry feeds without adequate water or if a rapid change of diet occurs. Both may cause a compaction in the lower end of the cecum, this in turn produces pain (colic).
It can take up to 2-3 weeks for the microbial population of the cecum to adjust to a new diet and return to normal function. Feed will remain in the cecum for about seven hours, allowing bacteria time to start breaking it down using the fermentation process.
The main function of the small colon is to reclaim excess moisture and return it to the body. These fecal balls, which are the undigested and mostly indigestible portion of what was fed some 36-72 hours ago are then passed to the rectum and expelled as manure through the anus.
Keeping the microflora happy can be difficult if a horse is under stress, travelling large distances, suffered illness or injury, received antibiotics, weaned foal or a high performance horse being fed large amounts of grain. Trying to feed your horses as close to their natural grazing habit as possible, (small meals frequently) will greatly reduce the risk of gastrointestinal tract disorders.
This generally refers to the lowering of pH (an increase in acidity) in the cecum and/or colon. Without this constant grazing pattern, a horse’s stomach is left empty for long stretches, and the acids buffered.
One major consequence of typical feeding practices is a high concentration of sugars and simpler starches in the diet. When undigested starch and sugars reaches the hind gut, the microbial fermentation process in the cecum produces a higher level of lactic acid.
This will lead to many of the physical signs we might typically associate with the digestive system: loss of weight, poor condition, appetite and performance, diarrhea, and even colic. This includes sensitivity on the flanks, reluctance for the horse to flex through the body, extend or collect, and worthiness.
Any discomfort in the hind gut will likely lead to a poor temperament, lack of focus, and subsequent training issues. The obvious answer is to radically change how we manage, feed, and care for the animal to get closer to the way the horse’s digestive system is naturally designed.
Adding wonderful quality cold pressed hemp oil to your horse’s diet can help with inflammation in the gut. Adding numeric to the diet can help with inflammation start with 1 teaspoon building up over 10 days to 1-2 tablespoons daily.
The microbial population is incredibly vast, but also very sensitive; therefore, they must be carefully maintained to protect against changes that can lead to digestive upset, colic and laminates. The types and numbers of microbes living in the hind gut are based on the variety of feed stuffs found in your horse’s diet.
Abrupt changes in your horse’s feeding program can negatively affect the microbial population, but how? When confronted with an abrupt change, some microbes die off because they no longer have access to the nutrients they need to survive.
Meanwhile, other microbes readily adapt to the change, allowing their population to increase. In some cases, the surviving microbes produce large quantities of fermentation byproducts that alter the pH in the hind gut.
This makes the environment even more unsuitable for other beneficial microbes and the imbalance becomes worse. It is this disruption in the balance of the microbial population and the increased acidity in the hind gut that can lead to digestive upset, colic and laminates.