Your horse’s hindgut and associated microbiome is pivotal to their health and needs to be kept happy and healthy all year round whatever the season. In winter the noticeable drop in temperature brings with it a loss of nutrients from grass and the potential need to replace what is missing through feed, leading to changes in your horse’s diet and routine which can have a significant impact on the health and integrity of their hindgut.
In our latest blog Lisa Elliott, MSc – Equine Nutrition Solutions shares her five top tips to help maximise your horse’s hindgut health this winter.
1. Provide ad-lib good-quality forage
Forage should always be the foundation of your horse’s diet, which during the winter can be provided as hay or haylage. Forage quality can vary greatly, so it’s important to ensure you are feeding the best quality you can find.
The fibre in forage gets broken down through a process of fermentation by billions of microbes in the hindgut, collectively known as the hindgut microbiome. These provide a source of energy for your horse for work and condition, but also releases heat, keeping your horse warm from the inside out. This central heating will help maintain condition and the better quality the forage; the more heat is generated.
Plenty of good-quality forage helps keep the digestive tract functioning well and keeps those all-important hindgut microbes who thrive on fibre, happy and healthy.
“The healthier the microbes the healthier your horse will be”
To maximise hindgut health and good condition through the winter, forage should be fed on a truly ad-lib basis. If your horse is stabled for longer periods during the winter, then the use of slow feeders and double hay nets can help ensure that forage is always available. Additionally, if your horse is turned out then putting hay or haylage out in the field will also help to ensure they have access to a continuous supply for optimum hindgut health.
Water is the most important nutrient in your horse’s diet, but naturally they can be inclined to drink less during the winter. Water is key for a healthy hindgut because it helps stimulate gut motility and keeps the hindgut contents hydrated, helping to reduce the risk of colic. Making sure your horse drinks enough water is essential.
During winter water troughs and buckets can become frozen, so making sure ice is broken regularly is essential. Adding hot water to warm the water above freezing, has been shown to increase water consumption by 40%. So, think about warming your horse’s water (ideally to between 7 – 18⁰C) to help increase drinking and ensure maximum hydration.
Adding salt to your horse’s diet in the form of a lick or added to feed can also help promote drinking and increase hydration for optimal hindgut health. Coligone Healthy Lick can help provide essential daily salt, with the added bonus of supporting optimal digestive health.
3. Minimise Starch
Horses that are struggling to hold weight and condition during the winter will often need extra feed but to keep their hindgut healthy it’s important to keep starch from cereals to a minimum or avoid altogether. Horses have a limited capacity to digest starch in the small intestine. Undigested excess starch from cereals can reach the hindgut and cause imbalances in the microbiome, leading to microbial dysbiosis which can result in hindgut acidosis. Hindgut acidosis is a consequence of the rapid growth of certain types of lactic acid producing bacteria. The increased lactic acid causes a drop in pH and results in a more acidic environment. This can lead to inflammation of the hindgut membrane and potentially laminitis or colic.
If your horse’s condition and work level mean they need more energy or ‘calories’ than forage alone can provide, it’s best to supply that through sources of highly digestible fibre like Coligone Fibre Bio or Coligone Fibre Cubes, alongside grass chop to encourage chewing.
When additional energy is required, this can also be supplied through sources of oil such as Ex-Selenium Oil. To help maintain a healthy hindgut, fibre should always be the first choice with oil added to boost calorie intake according to work and condition. Using fibre and oil instead of high levels of starch from cereals will help prevent excess starch reaching the hindgut and causing dysbiosis within the microbiome, which can compromise hindgut health.
4. Manage Dietary Change
If your horse needs extra feed to maintain condition during the winter, make any dietary changes gradually to help prevent digestive upset. Ideally changes should be made over 2-3 weeks, to allow the gut microbes time to adjust and maintain a healthy hindgut throughout.
With its ability to buffer acid, Coligone Powder or Liquid can be hugely beneficial to manage dietary change by helping to maintain a healthier hindgut pH and reducing the potential for digestive upset. Additionally, Coligone contains scientifically proven pre and probiotics to encourage a healthy hindgut microbe balance within the hindgut at times of change. Coligone Powder or Liquid can be fed during the transition to new feeds and can also be fed daily throughout the year for improved digestive health.
5. Promote Microbial Health and Diversity
Research has indicated that the equine hindgut microbiome contains a diverse range of bacterial species. This diversity is associated with a healthy microbiome, with a loss in diversity being linked to digestive disease and upset. A diverse diet promotes a diverse microbiome, which in turn promotes a healthy hindgut, and a healthy hindgut = a healthy horse.
Feeding more varied forages, like mixed meadow hay, haylage and chopped meadow grass during winter when horses are stabled more, will create more forage diversity and help promote a rich, diverse hindgut microbial population and optimise your horse’s hindgut health.
You can also increase diversity within your horse’s hindgut by feeding additional sources of fibre like Coligone Fibre Bio and Coligone Fibre Cubes. These hindgut friendly blends of digestible fibre will promote diversity within the hindgut microbiome to support optimum hindgut health.
Additionally, Coligone Powder or Liquid provide key pro and pre-biotics to support hindgut microbes – namely, scFOS, MOS and Yeasacc. All three work together to provide feed to stimulate and promote a healthy balance of beneficial hindgut microbes to further support hindgut health, integrity, and overall immunity through winter and beyond.
If you have any questions about creating the best diet for your horse and keeping your horse healthy through the right nutrition, please contact Coligone – 0333 0503785/07986 183616 or email@example.com.