For all that a horse suggests strength, speed and stamina their digestive systems are remarkably delicate. In terms of their diets, they are herbivore specialists who can only process one type of plant material efficiently. Too much, too little, or the wrong kind of foods can all cause digestive upsets that can lead to illness or fatality.
Horses are classified as herbivores, or roughage eaters. They are grazing animals with digestive systems designed for constant consumption of plant food.Their digestive organs include the stomach, small intestine and large intestine. The stomach and small intestine are commonly referred to as the upper gut, and are where most of the protein, fat, vitamins and minerals contained in feed are digested and absorbed.The large intestine of the horse has a greatly enlarged cecum which serves as a fermentation vat. Billions of bacteria and protozoa produce enzymes that break down plant fiber. In the horse, this fermentation process occurs behind the area where most nutrients are absorbed, and as a result, horses do not obtain all of the nutrients synthesized by microorganisms in its large intestine.
Microflora and the Digestive system - The horses digestive system has evolved to process large quantities of high fibre forage on an almost continuous basis. Due to the requirements of competition and modern management the horse has to utilise high energy diets. In order to break this down to digestible products it relies on the assistance of billions of beneficial micro-organisms which live in the gut. These micro-organisms produce enzymes that convert food into its basic constituents which can be readily absorbed through the horses gut wall. A probiotic presentation should comprise up to seven strains of naturally occurring micro-organisms including yeasts. These have been chosen to survive the acidity of the stomach and for their ability to multiply rapidly, colonise the gut and replace microflora which has been removed through illness or stress. Probiotics promote efficient digestion and ensure optimum use of the horses feed. Use of a probiotic has been shown to increase digestibility of essential minerals such as calcium and zinc. Elements of the microflora are responsible for the production and bioavailability of B group vitamins. Probiotics are a live microbial feed supplement which can benefit the horse by enhancing and improving the microbial balance within the horses gut, resulting in the improved maintenance of good health and condition.
A probiotic supplement for horses can help to:-
- Keep the digestive system in balance.
- Reduce the risk of digestive upset caused by change of diet.
- Promote efficient digestion and reduce feed bills.
- Protect against gastric problems caused by pathogenic bacteria.
- Protect against the effects of stressful situations such as travel, competition, racing, change of environment, illness, weaning etc.
- Reduce unwanted side-effects from antibiotics.
- Keep the immune system boosted.
- increase milk production from lactating mares and increase early growth in foals.
- Maintain overall good health and condition.
- Reduce the incidence of persistent and sporadic colics.