It is well known that horses have a delicate digestive system. Or do they? Realistically, it is not the horse’s digestive system but what we feed them that creates the sensitivity. Equine have a unique hindgut that comes with sensitivities to certain ingredients. If we feed a horse what it was naturally designed to digest, feeding can become much easier and overall animal health and behavior can drastically improve.
A horse’s digestive system was never made for processing a grain-based (corn, wheat, milo, etc.) diet with large amounts of starch. Starch, because of its molecular complexity, requires breakdown into less complex sugars that need to be further broken down into simple sugars before being absorbed. To digest starch, horses produce an enzyme called amylase that is released into the small intestine. Amylase starts the digestion of complex sugar molecules, such as starch. Because horses produce limited amounts of amylase, compared to other species, the small intestine is not able to handle a high starch content and can lead to overflow into the hindgut.
The hindgut ferments roughage and breaks down fiber. Microorganisms, including bacteria, perform this task by producing enzymes. When the small intestine is overwhelmed with grain it will pass it through to the large intestine where it ferments, creating increased sugar levels and a lower pH. This pH drop makes for a more acidic environment, killing microbial bacteria which create gasses as they decompose. These gasses and decomposition can cause a mild upset, colic, and even death. Having unhealthy bacteria in the hindgut can lead to vitamin deficiency (specifically in B-group and K vitamins), diarrhea, loss of appetite, and weight loss.
Keeping the bacteria in the hindgut healthy is synonymous with keeping the hindgut healthy. Healthy microbial bacteria produce a number of vitamins as a byproduct of the digestion process. Thiamine, vitamin K, and biotin are a few. A horse with a healthy hindgut will produce all the biotin it can consume as a byproduct of the microbial bacteria. This biotin, along with lysine, methionine, zinc, and quality proteins; helps to support hoof health.
Horses like to digest ingredients that are low in non-structural carbohydrates (NSC). NSC are typically made up of starches or complex sugars. Horses love simple sugars and long stem fiber sources or structural carbohydrates, such as alfalfa or grass hay. Keeping a long stem fiber source consistently in the hindgut for fermentation helps to ensure those microbial bacteria stay healthy. In addition to the long stem fiber source, look for other ingredients with naturally low starch for cool energy, good proteins, and omega-3 fatty acids. Prebiotics can be helpful as well, generating functional metabolites to drive digestive ease and efficiency. These supplemental ingredients are very important for performance horses which may require more nutrients than a simple hay or pasture diet can provide.
By focusing on healthy hindgut function you ensure your animal has a good supply of energy, vitamins, and can avoid some very common issues. Attitude, behavior, hooves, coat, mane and tail will all show a noticeable difference and an improved overall healthy horse. Feed your horse what its digestive system was naturally designed to digest. Then sit back and watch the results!
Pink Rose Organix Equine Boost & Balance is a USDA Certified Organic feed for an optimized digestive system and healthy hindgut. A delicious, prescriptive blend of organic proteins, oils, and
fiber that works with your pasture or hay to boost digestive efficiency and balance the
diet. Boost & Balance focuses on hindgut function; driving animal health, attitude, and
positive, cool energy!