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How to improve your horse's gut health?

How to improve your horse's gut health?

When looking for a gut balancer or a digestive supplement to support your horse's digestive health, the choice of products online can be overwhelming and somewhat confusing. You may be faced with options such as a ‘gut health paste’, and a ‘digestive balancer’, and you may be unsure whether to opt for paste or pellets… Is one gut balancer better than the other?

 

This blog will cut through the noise and help you decide which is the best gut balancer for the specific needs of you and your horse.

 

We will explore what is in a horse gut balancer, how a gut balancer will improve digestive health, what balancers are available on the market and more. After reading this you will be fully equipped to provide the most suitable supplementation to improve your horse's digestive health which will undoubtedly lead to increases in their overall wellbeing.

 

When to use a gut balancer for my horse? Factors that affect gut health

 

A horse's gut is a very complex and surprisingly sensitive system. All horses belong to a family of herbivorous mammals that possess a certain hindgut (caecum and colon) microbiota. The microbiota is the assemblage of trillions of cells which make up microorganisms including bacteria, viruses, and fungi. The microbiota in the equine gut enables the utilisation of forage for optimal nutrition. These microbes provide a substantial proportion of the horses’ daily energy needs through the fermentation of plant material to short-chain fatty acids. Consequently, gastrointestinal disturbance in the equine microbiota can result in alteration of fermentation patterns and, ultimately, decrease the overall health of the horse. Simply put, when the bacteria in a horse's gut does not work properly, they cannot obtain as much energy and nutrients from their food. This results in loss of condition and can also cause weight loss.

 

Throughout the year there will be many seasonal and external factors that can really play havoc on your horse's internal microbial communities. These factors include increased/decreased turnout, spring grass/ decreased grazing quality, changes in the amount of exercise, stressors, worm burden, antibiotics and more. All of these can influence the health of the gastrointestinal tract of the horse and alter overall wellbeing. Performance horses are likely to experience significantly more stressors- these may include intensive exercise, travel, a restricted diet and of course competitions/events.

 

A gastric disturbance will present itself through symptoms including loose droppings or scouring, poor performance, lethargy, and a decrease in weight. All of these are indicators that a horse's gut is not working efficiently.

 

Antibiotics, such as Penicillin, may imbalance of the equine intestinal microbiota by decreasing bacterial richness and diversity or triggering a bacterial overgrowth. Studies have shown that the changes in the equine microbiome composition (referring to the communities of bacteria) caused by antibiotics usually take 25 days to restore. This involves the rebuilding of the microbial composition back to baseline levels. We recommend the use of a probiotic & prebiotic (synbiotic) when antibiotics are being administered – Thoroughbred Remedies Manufacturing makes an excellent synbiotic – TRM Synbiovit, it is perfect for use alongside worming or antibiotic treatments.

 

Sorts horses, including racehorses, are often taken straight from the stable to training. While this seems like a very routine task, when horses do not have sufficient forage in their stomachs and they are then vigorously exercised, corrosive stomach acid can splash onto the upper wall of the stomach that is more sensitive to the acidity of the stomach acid (hydrochloric acid with a low pH) causing painful erosion of the stomach lining. Some gut balancers can reduce this damage- some gut balancers work by increasing stomach pH (often labelled as an antacid), and some work by creating a raft on top of the stomach fluid to reduce acid splashback.

 

So, now you know the reasons why you may need to you a gut balancer, let's look at occasions when to use a gut balancer for your horse.

 

(Reactive support)

A gut balancer can be used for horses to improve symptoms such as loose droppings or scouring, poor performance, lethargy, and a decrease in weight.

 

(Proactive support)

If you expect your horse to have a dietary change, a course of antibiotics, or experience some type of stress (this may include the competition season or a change of home), then feeding a gut balancer will provide an effective buffer to maintain good digestive health throughout the transitional or stressful period.  

 

 

How a gut balancer improves equine digestive health and the key ingredients involved  

 

Gastrointestinal tract (GIT) disorders and their consequences are among the most significant diseases amongst horses. That is why a huge amount of scientific research has gone into creating products to improve the digestive health of equines. Luckily, many affordable products have now been created that are designed to support a healthy bacteria population in the equine gut. While many variations of gut balancing products, two ingredients that will be present in almost every variation of the product on the market are pre-and probiotics.

 

Probiotics are commonly known as ‘good’, ‘live’ bacteria. They are also regarded as feed additives that stabilise gut flora for healthy animals. The actual definition of a probiotic, as expressed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) is: “live strains of strictly selected microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host’. 

 

The EU enforces very strict regulations for all products labelled as probiotics. In order for a product to go on the market, producers must prove product identity, safety and efficacy to a scientific committee. Assessment and approval from the scientific committee and authorization under EU council (EC) regulation on additives for use in animal nutrition are also needed before market introduction.

 

For probiotics to work effectively, they should be able to survive the extreme gastric environment, have antimicrobial properties against pathogens, and adhere to mucus and epithelial cells in the gut. Probiotics for horses are designed to reach and establish themselves in the large colon, as this is where most GIT disorders occur. 

 

Prebiotics are defined as non-living, nondigestible food ingredients that benefit the host by stimulating non-pathogenic (those that do not cause disease) intestinal microbe growth and/or activity. Simply put, prebiotics are food for existing bacteria in the digestive tract. Not only are prebiotics good for the gut, but they offer certain advantages within the process of supplement production and storage. The organisms are not live, and as they are designed to feed bacteria they help protect and stabilise the probiotics during the processing and storage phase of the product.

 

Which are the best gut balancers on the market?

 

Below is a short selection of some of what we believe to be the best digestive supplements and gut balancers available on the market. The product description will be followed by more product analysis whereby we will compare ingredients and dive deeper into the products.

TRM GNF (Gut Nutrition Formula) Pellets

Form: Pellet | Sizes: 3kg, 10kg

A convenient pelleted form of GNF for adding to normal feed ration to maintain digestive function. Gut Nutrition Formula is suitable for feeding to horses with depressed appetites, weight-loss or exhibiting stable vices such as cribbing or wind sucking. Horses: Feed 50g twice daily. Ponies and foals: feed 25g twice daily.

TRM GNF (Gut Nutrition Formula) Paste

Form: Paste | Sizes: 28 x 80g Syringe

A complementary feed that combines minerals, amino acids and a prebiotic which have a role in general metabolism and are required for normal feed conversion. GNF Paste also contains Slippery Elm, a rich source of mucilage and is used to soothe the digestive tract. Maintenance feed 40g morning and evening.

Protexin Gut Balancer

Form: Pellet | Sizes: 700g, 3.5kg, 7kg

Gut Balancer is an everyday probiotic and prebiotic powder, specifically designed for horses and ponies. Use daily for general wellbeing, to normalise digestive function and efficiency, and for equines prone to digestive upsets. Normal use: Feed 5g-10g/day. Stress use: Feed 10g-20g/day.

Protexin Gut Bind

Form: Paste | Sizes: 30ml Syringe

Gut Bind replaces Pro-Kolin + for Foals. It is a two-day course of probiotics, prebiotics, Kaolin, and Pectin designed to settle a foal’s disrupted gut. Also suitable for horses. Feed 5ml to foals every 8 hours by mouth.

SUCCEED Granules

Form: Pellet | Sizes: 1.62kg

SUCCEED granules help improve nutrient absorption for healthy energy and weight. And SUCCEED supports natural health and immunity to reduce the risks of ulcers, colic, and other serious health issues. 60 days supply.

 

SUCCEED Paste

Form: Paste | Sizes: 30 x 27g Syringe

SUCCEED Paste is ideal for picky eaters or to get a horse started on the SUCCEED programme.

 

 

Note- It is important to store these types of products properly (sealed, in a cool, dry place) and make sure they are part of a well-­balanced diet for maximum ­effectiveness.

 

Product Analysis

 

Farm & Stable sell all the products listed above, therefore this analysis is impartial and designed to be educational.

 

TRM GNF Ingredients            

 

Seaweed Extract (from Laminaria Hyperborea)

Creates a floating raft of gel which helps to protect the non-glandular part of the stomach from acid.

Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS)

Classified as prebiotics, FOS is recognised to stimulate the growth of desirable bacteria which can result in a positive symbiotic relationship between bacteria and the host. Form a

FOS can remain available as substrates for microbial populations to utilise, and thus promote increased intestinal efficiency, so can be regarded as a food substrate for the beneficial bacteria in the hindgut.

Glutamine

An important amino acid for the repair of epithelial cells. Glutamine supplementation has proven to increase intestinal performance and has been found to decrease the over-expression of pro-inflammatory genes, thus leading to a reduction in intestinal damage.

Threonine

This has been found to be extremely palatable and provide increased digestible energy sources. It contains higher amounts of vitamins, minerals and proteins when compared to conventional vegetable sources.

Slippery Elm

Its emollient properties have led to its traditional use for centuries for soothing irritated tissue, coating, and protecting the digestive tract. Its high calcium content may have some antacid effects. 

 

Summary:

This product contains a number of ingredients that provide huge benefits to a disturbed digestive tract. GNF contains both calcium and magnesium which are recognised as alkaline providers and have been shown to increase intestinal mucosal integrity. Therefore, this product can be used to support horses prone to ulceration. The floating raft of gel which protects the stomach lining from splashing acid also lends itself to being a product that supports horses prone to stomach ulcers. In a 2006 study ‘An investigation into the efficacy of a commercially available gastric supplement for the treatment and prevention of Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS)’, GNF was given to horses with EGUS, and it was shown to reduce the ulcer score of the trail group. Please note that if you suspect ulceration in your horses, you must always seek advice from your veterinarian.

 

 

Protexin Ingredients

 

Alfalfa meal, Preplex® prebiotic (fructo-oligosaccharide), Brewers' yeast

 

Summary

 

Protexin has a trademarked formula containing pre and probiotics and digestibility enhancers. The probiotic contains numerous essential amino acids, vitamins, including vitamin B6, and important minerals. All ingredients in our products are selected to ensure they are fully compliant with the FEI guidelines for Clean Sport. The gut Balancer supports optimal nutrition by providing key nutrients, and by improving digestive function and efficiency.

 

SUCCEED Ingredients

 

Oat oil

Rich in polar lipids, highly beneficial fat molecules that are important for normal digestive health and function. Polar lipids are shown to assist with nutrient absorption, strength and integrity of the intestinal mucosa barrier, and normal brain function.

The oats used in the production of SUCCEED are different than those used to create most common flours, like those used for baking. Our oats have more bran, which is rich in beta glucan, and a low starch content. Beta glucan has been shown to be useful for maintaining a healthy rate at which food moves through the digestive tract, regulating the release of sugars from the digestive system, and supporting natural immunity.

Yeast

SUCCEED contains components of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain of yeast that show benefits for the digestive health of horses. The yeast in SUCCEED is rich in mannan oligosaccharide (MOS), beta glucan, and nucleotides. MOS supports a balanced microflora and a healthy immune system response. Nucleotides are essential to cell growth and repair and help maintain a healthy intestinal tract while beta glucan protects the hindgut.

Glutamine

A healthy immune system requires an adequate supply of glutamine in order to function properly. Dietary glutamine may be beneficial for horses that are in training, being used for hard work or are otherwise challenged. Glutamine provides fuel for intestinal epithelial cells (which make up the first layer of the gut lining) and assists with nutrient absorption. It also strengthens and helps to reconstitute the mucosal barrier.

Threonine

An essential amino acid that is necessary for GI tract health. In horses, threonine contributes to a smoothly functioning GI tract. It also assists metabolism and nutrient absorption while also contributing to mucus production.

 

Summary:

This product contains naturally occurring ingredients that support both digestive anatomy and digestive function.

 

Which is the best type of gut balancer: pellets or paste?

 

There is no hard and fast rule to this, and your own circumstances may influence which type of digestive supplement will work best for you. A syringe is highly concentrated and may be better if your horse is a fussy eater or leaves their food, if you have a foal with scouring that is not yet on hard feed, or if you need to see rapid results. However, syringes may not be the most appropriate for long term use and may be more expensive to feed than pellets. Gut balancer pallets may be the best option for mid to long term digestive support and can be easily added to your horse's normal daily feed ration.

 

Our digestive supplement of choice: GNF  

 

This is our gut support supplement of choice because it is both affordable and extremely effective. It contains natural ingredients that are of the highest quality and there are clinical trials that prove its efficacy in reducing ulceration. These ingredients ease the symptoms of a wide variety of equine GIT disorders which leaves the horse freelining, brighter, happier, and more like themself.

 

Conclusion

 

Each horse has a unique microbiome which will have varying levels of resilience against change. However, for all mammalian species, scientific evidence points towards a strong relationship between the health of the microbiome and the function of the animal. This means maintaining optimum gut health is vital to a horse's overall well-being and performance. Therefore, we strongly recommend incorporating a specific equine gut balancer, such as GNF, into the diet of all sports horses to protect and maintain optimum digestive function to support performance.

 

Whether you want to ease symptoms of gastrointestinal disturbances, provide proactive support ahead of a stressful period, or simply want to help your horse get the most out of the valuable nutrition you are feeding them, using a digestive supplement is an excellent way to promote and restore optimal gut health which will allow your horse to work at their maximum potential.

 

 

 

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