5 Ways to Optimize Your Horse’s Digestion
Who doesn't want a healthy happy gut for their horse, right?
The problem is we live in a world on fast-forward and our horses’ gut feels the effects. Hectic show schedules, training sessions, processed foods, inadequate sleep, etc, the list goes on. Modern Sporthorse life is not conducive to a healthy, functioning GI tract. The good news is we can limit the impact by making a few conscious tweaks to our horsekeeping practices.
HERE ARE SOME QUICK AND EASY ALL-NATURAL TIPS TO HELP YOU OPTIMIZE YOUR HORSE'S DIGESTIVE SYSTEM
Maximize pasture turnout
Your horse’s digestive tract is designed for a near-continuous supply of chewed grass. In fact, with access to ample pasture, horses will spend as much as 18 hours a day grazing.
The most important way to keep a horse's digestive system functioning well is also the simplest, and that is to mimic nature as closely as possible.
Even horses who must have their grass intake limited due to susceptibility to laminitis or simply getting fat on-air will still benefit mentally and physically from being at liberty in their pastures since exercise improves blood circulation and regulates happy hormones in the body.
Feed top-quality hay and lots of it.
Everything in the equine diet revolves around good forage. Apart from the obvious benefit of putting something yummy in your horse’s tummy, free choice hay gives your horse something to do to alleviate boredom when stabled. A continuous supply of high-quality forage also protects your horse’s stomach by increasing salivation. Saliva is one of the body’s first defenses against an overly acidic stomach.
Your horse’s super long digestive tract (all 100 FEET of it!) is perfectly evolved to match the long digestive process required to extract nutrients from fiber-rich sources like high-quality hay. According to a study by Penn State University, forages are a basic necessity for normal functioning of the equine digestive system and horses should consume at least 1 percent of their body weight in hay or pasture grasses and legumes each day.
Don’t let your horse’s stomach empty out
Gastric ulcers are common in horses, in part because of the modern feeding practice of restricting a horse to one or two large meals per day, which leaves his stomach empty most of the time.
Feeding hay free-choice allows a continuous intake and keeps the horse's stomach full longer. So, too, can dividing the hay ration out into smaller portions that are fed throughout the day.
Horses need as much water as they will drink. The average horse needs to drink up to seven gallons per day, though the actual amount may vary.
Just chewing and digesting dry forage itself requires plenty of fluid; even more crucial is keeping enough water in their systems to keep ingesta moving. If there's not enough, the ingesta can dry and form impactions that block the further flow of food, causing potentially fatal colic.
Most horses naturally drink what they need if they have access to clean water.
Above all, don't withhold water from a horse after exercise. The myth that allowing hot horses to drink cold water will lead to muscle cramps and colic has been thoroughly disproved by several studies.
Protect your horse's gut flora
Your horse needs a healthy, well-balanced population of microbes in his gut to help him digest food and absorb nutrients. The stresses of transport and competition or the administration of antibiotics can disrupt this microbial population.
If the balance of his microbial population is disrupted, your horse may develop chronic diarrhea, lose weight or be generally unthrifty, additionally, he may even become susceptible to certain types of colic.
To help your horse replenish and maintain healthy populations of gut flora, a number of supplements are available that contain probiotics, live microorganisms to "reseed" the gut.
Also beneficial to your horse’s digestive tract are prebiotics, nutrients that feed the beneficial bacteria. Prebiotics are available from highly nutritive, natural sources. The two most prebiotic-rich herbs are Burdock root and Dandelion root, with Slippery Elm, Licorice, and Chicory being next in line. These five herbs contain constituent inulin, which is prebiotic, and all 5 are present in our No. 14 Gut Tonic
A balanced GI tract is the cornerstone of your horse's overall health.The most beneficial change you can make for your horse is to establish wellness at the root: his digestive system.
With a healthy GI tract, your horse can say goodbye to gut trouble and see benefits that go far beyond digestion. SPA's Gut Tonic includes:
- Alkalizing herbs create a more natural environment throughout the entire GI tract so your horse gets the most from his diet.
- 100% natural ingredients so you can feel good about what you're putting in your horse's body.
- Emollient botanicals support the gastric mucosa so your horse experiences immediate relief.
Gut Tonic was exactly the missing link I needed to complete my program!I can fix the mental game, stamina, stride, bones, and muscles, but if I'm not addressing the gut then it's all for nothing. (Gut Tonic) is helping add stamina, increase energy in the lethargic horses, and calming the hot ones, while bringing my horses back to baseline health and I couldn't be happier!"Ashley M - SPA Customer