Keeping a horse healthy inside and out is a key concern for all horse owners. Bumps and knocks in the field or stable environment are inevitable, however maintaining a healthy digestive system can be more challenging as symptoms can range from acute to chronic.
Horses in the wild adapt their grazing behaviour based on many factors but spend up to 70% of their time eating1. Small, frequent meals encourage unhindered passage of feed through the equine digestive tract, primarily due to the production of saliva which is only produced during chewing2. Saliva has 2 main functions: lubrication of ingested feed and buffering of stomach acid. Horses consuming forages produce around twice the volume of saliva compared to those consuming cereals (440 vs 206 g saliva/100 g DM intake respectively)3. Therefore, horses consuming diets containing a higher proportion of forage will naturally produce more saliva and hence increase the buffering properties of the ingested feed.
Horses continually produce stomach acid4 irrespective of feed being present in the stomach. It has also been shown that horses consuming cereals or pelletized feeds produce more stomach acid than those offered solely forage due to increased production of the hormone gastrin5. In addition, modern management practises such as infrequent feeding of large meals containing cereals and starch, lack of natural movement such as stabling and more intensive exercise regimes can lead to a poorly buffered, acidic stomach environment which can increase the risk of gastric ulceration6.
Simple carbohydrates within the diet such as sugars are enzymatically broken down and absorbed, as glucose, across the small intestine wall into the blood stream7. Digestion of starch within the small intestine is slow and limited due to the low activity of pancreatic amylase, which can lead to the potential of overspill of starch into the hindgut8 if too much starch is fed in a single feed. The hindgut has evolved to ferment and breakdown the complex carbohydrates found in forages, commonly referred to as fibre, and relies on enzymes, produced and released by bacteria into the hind gut, to breakdown the fibre and produce volatile fatty acids which are a very important source of energy for the horse9. Additionally, in the healthy horse the hindgut is the site of B vitamin production and absorption10. Overspill of starch into the hindgut alters the balance of bacterial communities, stimulating lactic acid producers which convert starch to lactic acid which can rapidly drop the pH within the hindgut11. A reduction in hindgut pH (hindgut acidosis) causes death of beneficial bacteria which are responsible for fibre breakdown leading to a variety of digestive upsets including colic 12.
Horslyx Pro Digest Balancer has been formulated with the above in mind. Horslyx Pro Digest Balancer contains mucilage in the form of slippery elm13 and seaweed meal14. Mucilage is a soluble fibre that absorbs water within the gastrointestinal tract15 and can form a soothing barrier between the intestinal tract wall and transient feed16.
Additionally, Horslyx Pro Digest Balancers contain both prebiotics and probiotics. Prebiotics are not digested by mammalian enzymes and pass through the gastrointestinal tract where they can affect bacteria. The prebiotic is rich in MOS (Mannan-oligosaccharides) and beta glucans which are derived from yeast. It has been shown that incorporation of MOS has health benefits in horses by increasing immune function17. Additionally, pathogenic bacteria are fooled into binding to MOS, in the digesta, rather than the gut cell walls due to the similar surface carbohydrates found on both the MOS and gut cell walls18. Beta glucans can also affect immune function as macrophages, white blood cells, have a specific beta glucan receptor which when combined stimulate immune responses to pathogenic bacteria19.
Probiotics are live yeasts and are registered and classified as feed additives by The European Feed Safety Authority. Live yeasts are either digestibility enhancers or gut flora stabilisers. The live yeast within Horslyx Pro Digest Balancer is Actisaf and it is a registered digestibility enhancer. Live yeasts enhance fibre digestibility within the colon and modulate the balance of hindgut bacterial communities reducing the risk of acidosis20.
Horslyx Pro Digest Balancer also includes the comprehensive vitamin, mineral and trace element package and oils ensuring your horse looks good as well as receiving the benefits of maintaining a healthy digestive system.
1Gudmundsson, O., & Dyrmundsson, O.R. (1994). Horse grazing under cold and wet conditions: a review. Livestock Production Science, 40(1), 57–63.
2Alexander, F. (1966). A study of paratoid salivation in the horse. Journal of Physiology, 184, 646-656.
3Meyer, H., Coenen, M. and Gurer, C. (1985). Investigations of saliva production and chewing in horses fed various feeds. In Proceedings of the 9th ENPS, East Lansing, Mi, 38-41.
4F.M. Andrews, B.R. Buchanan, S.B. Elliot, N.A. Clariday and L.H. Edwards (2005). Gastric ulcers in horses. Journal of Animal Science, 83, E18-E21.
5Smyth, G. B., Young, D.W. and Hammond, L.S. (1988). Effects of diet and feeding on post-prandial serum gastrin and insulin concentrations in adult horses. Equine Veterinary Journal, Supplement 7, 56-59.
6Davidson, N. and Harris, P. (2002). Nutrition and welfare. In: The Welfare of Horses, N. Waran ed, Kluwer Academic, Dordrecht. pp 45-76.
7Geor, R.J. and Harris, P.A. (2007). How to minimize gastrointestinal disease associated with carbohydrate nutrition in horses. Proceedings of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, 53, 178-185.
8Cuddeford, D. (2001). Starch digestion in the horse. In Geor, R.J. and Pagan, J.D. eds, Advances in Equine Nutrition II, Nottingham University Press. 95-103.
9Hintz, H.F., Schryver, H.F. and Stevens, C.E. (1978). Digestion and Absorption in the Hindgut of Nonruminant Herbivores. Journal of Animal Science, 46, 1803–1807.
10Carroll, F.D., Goss, H. and Howell, C.E. (1949). The Synthesis of B Vitamins in the Horse. Journal of Animal Science, 8, 290–299.