Digestive Health

By Sarah Butler BSC (Hons) Blue Chip Feed Limited

Poor digestive health is becoming more widely recognized as the cause of many different problems for the horse, including poor nutrient absorption, loose droppings, scurfy skin, a staring coat and even laminitis, amongst many others.  Feeding a diet to suit how the horse’s digestive system has evolved is incredibly important, and can help to prevent problems such as diarrhoea, gastric ulcers and colic.

The horse’s diet must be nutritionally balanced with regards to vitamins and minerals, and these should be available in an easily-absorbable form, so the horse can efficiently utilise them.  The best way to ensure this is by feeding a Blue Chip balancer.

Feeding a superior quality balancer, from the Blue Chip range that includes probiotic and prebiotic digestive aids, will not only help the horse to make the most of their diet, but can also help to soothe the digestive system and can double the digestibility of fibre, meaning they will get twice as much from the fibre in their diet.  It is important that the correct forms and quantities of these digestive aids are fed, to fully benefit the horse.

All the balancers in the Blue Chip range contain a probiotic yeast to aid gut metabolism, and promote the optimum functioning of the gut.  This probiotic will also stimulate the growth of the beneficial bacteria involved in digestive processes, therefore aiding the breakdown of fibre, nutrient absorption and ‘mopping up’ of unwanted acids.

Feeding a Blue Chip balancer that contains a high level of a probiotic yeast will ultimately reduce the need to feed as much concentrate feed, as the horse will utilise fibre much more efficiently, helping to reduce feed bills.

There are two types of prebiotics commonly used in equine diets; FOS and MOS.  FOS is a long chain of sugar molecules, providing a feed-source for the beneficial micro-organisms in the gut.  However, if the digestive system is already compromised and there is a large population of bad bacteria, whilst the ‘good’ bacteria may start to thrive, the harmful bacteria will still cause an unhealthy gut and negatively affect the general health of the horse.

The MOS prebiotic mimics the cursor that the harmful bacteria bind to on the gut wall; once the harmful bacteria have bound to the MOS, they cannot be released, and so they are rendered useless and ‘flushed out’ of the digestive system – this promotes the overall health of the digestive system, so the beneficial bacteria can thrive. Blue Chip Pro and Blue Chip Lami-light both contain MOS prebiotic.

Horses did not evolve to receive large quantities of hard feed; they are trickle feeders that require a large proportion of their diet to be fibre.  Ad lib forage should ideally be provided, and hay can be soaked for 12+ hours if the weight of the horse or pony needs to be controlled.  Soaking hay for this length of time will ensure that they still receive the necessary fibre for a healthy, functioning gut without providing excess calories.  Never forget that horses evolved to be trickle feeders, so don’t starve overweight horses or ponies as this can cause more problems, and don’t put too much in one feed if you are trying to increase a horse’s weight.  A horse will put weight on much more quickly with four or even five small feeds per day rather than two large ones, which is why feeing a small quantity of a nutrient dense balancer such as one from the Blue Chip range will benefit your horse so much.

Many cases of laminitis are thought to be caused by toxicity in the gut and this is where the diet can play a vital role in the rehabilitation and ultimately help to prevent re-occurring bouts of the disease; feeding a low calorie, low sugar, low starch, diet feed balancer, such as Blue Chip Lami-light, alongside a high fibre diet, can help to ensure the horse or pony is getting all the required vitamins, minerals and nutrients required when on a restricted diet, without encouraging weight gain.

When a horse has a healthy digestive system he will be more settled, easier to ride, generally happier and his coat will glow with well-being.  If your horse has a digestive problem please contact Blue Chip to see how one of the balancers from the range can benefit them on 0114 266 6200 or visit www.bluechipfeed.com

Author: The Editor

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