August 2018 – Mid Month Update

August 2018 – Mid Month Update

Holistic Horsekeeping
How to have a healthy happy horse.


1. Supporting your Horse’s Micro biome
2. Share the Knowledge


1. Supporting your Horse’s Micro biome
The intestinal micro biome includes the trillions of microbes and their genes that live and interact in the horse’s digestive tract. Microbes live in all parts of the body but the intestinal microbes are especially important. A horse with a more diverse gut micro biome can better tolerate illness, stresses, and is less likely to have digestive issues, such as colic.

How can we support the horse’s gut micro biome? Diet is the first place to start supporting a healthy micro biome. Horses are designed to eat a high fiber, low carbohydrate, low fat diet spread out over many small meals. When we bring horses into stall or pens and feed them high concentrate meals twice a day with limited forage, we are shifting their natural micro biome to an out of balance state. Sugar and starch molecules overflow out of the small intestine into the large intestine which causes more starch digesting bacteria to multiply in an area of the gut which should be populated with fiber digesting bacteria. Instead of fatty acids from fiber digestion, you now have lactic acid production which lowers to pH in the large intestine further depressing healthy fiber digesting bacteria.

The diet of the horse should be as simple as possible. Feeds or supplements containing large numbers of ingredients can interfere with proper digestion if the different ingredients don’t combine well or need to be digested in different parts of the digestive system. I tend to avoid long term feeding of products with more than 10 ingredients.

High amounts of low quality fat, such as vegetable oil, will also suppress fiber digestion. High quality fat, such as flax, chia, purified fish oil, and blue green algae is valuable for horses not receiving fatty acids from grass pasture. Rice bran, copra meal, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds can be used for horses that need additional fat to maintain weight. Quality, low sugar and starch pasture or hay is the main food for a healthy micro biome in a horse.

The other way to support the healthy micro biome is to avoid things that negatively impact it. Drugs, including steroids and anti inflammatories, vaccinations, antibiotics, and hormones, such as progesterone, all negatively impact the micro biome. Stress, from weather extremes, confinement, training, hauling, competition, change of ownership, or pain can all create imbalance in the horse’s micro biome.

A state where the gut bacteria are out of balance is called dysbiosis. Signs that a horse is suffering from dysbiosis include poor hooves, poor hair coat, skin or respiratory allergies, food sensitivities, runny eyes, congestion of lymphatic fluid, abdominal bloating, poor performance, and weight gain or loss. No horse will have all these symptoms but even a few can indicate a need to rebalance the micro biome.

With mild imbalances in the micro biome you can set things right with proper diet and a good pre and probiotic supplement. I like Probiotic Wise and an algae, enzyme and probiotic combination. Horses that are under ongoing stress may need pre and probiotics on an ongoing basis. Following an insult, such as deworming or vaccination, I suggest at least a 10 day course of a good pre/probiotic. Feeding pre/probiotics during stressful conditions, such as showing or a stretch of extreme weather, is a good practice.

With more severe imbalances in the micro biome you may have to create the right terrain for healthy bacteria to reestablish. Homeopathic prescribing may be needed to create the right vibrational terrain for the good bacteria to thrive. Mushrooms may need to be fed for a month or so to remove toxins and negative bacterial metabolites from the intestines. I feed 6 capsules a day of a premium mushroom blend for 2 to 4 weeks to clean up the gut when toxins have been generated from dysbiosis. Mushrooms can be given in combination with pre and probiotics.

Supporting your horse’s micro biome is maybe the most important thing you can do for your horse. Some things, like diet, you can control. Some things, like weather, you can’t control. Stress is perceived differently by different horse temperament types. We offer balancing formulas to address the different stresses of each type. A happy horse is better able to maintain a healthy micro biome in the face of insults. Whenever you make decisions about managing your horse, ask yourself how your choice will affect his micro biome.

2. Share the Knowledge
Are you looking to improve your knowledge of equine nutrition or using homeopathy with horses? Or do you know someone who could benefit from this type of knowledge? If so, check out the Mentoring Program offered by Madalyn Ward, DVM. This is an intense one-on-one program that focuses on what you want and need to supplement the skills and knowledge you already have about holistic horse care. Don’t have the time right now to commit to a program like this? You can still benefit from Dr. Ward’s expertise by getting a consult. And if more in depth knowledge of horse temperament typing is more to your liking, we have an online course offered.

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