Horses have a special digestive system that is sensitive to changes in feed, poor quality roughage, too many sugars, weather changes and stress. What can you do as a horse owner if your horse has sensitive intestines and regularly suffers from cramps, light gas colic or, for example, diarrhoea?
In fact, all horses have a sensitive gastrointestinal system, but some animals are more obvious than others. Horses need a lot of fiber for their digestive system to function optimally. Fibers are therefore the basis of the horse ration. Enough roughage, with a lot of fiber and of good quality is therefore the first requirement for horses with sensitive intestines. Check whether there are no molds in the roughage and, if necessary, supplement a shortage of good roughage with high-quality roughage substitutes. For example alfalfa, (soaked) grass pellets or sugar-free beet pulp.
Support intestinal flora
Fibers are therefore the basis and ensure the proper development of the intestinal flora. But you can also support the intestinal flora with herbs. This can be done by picking herbs or by giving a herbal extract. The latter is a supplement for the feed or in the water at a mineral buffet. Then your horse can choose what he needs.
Worms and sand under control
For good digestion, it is also important that your horse does not suffer from parasites or sand in the intestines. Have your horse’s manure regularly tested for worm eggs and, if necessary, give a tailor-made worming treatment. If your horse ingests sand in a sand paddock, through dusty hay or because the grass in the pasture is very short, give a regular treatment with psyllium.
Be careful with concentrates
Too much sugar and starch in the ration can also cause intestinal problems. If you give concentrates, do not give too much at once because a horse’s stomach is small. Also, do not train immediately after feeding concentrates, which is unpleasant for your horse and not good for digestion and the training effect. Check the ingredients of your concentrate. You want to feed all the minerals and vitamins, without too many burdensome fillers and sugars. Especially if your horse is not high in the sport (eventing, endurance, jumping) or is a broodmare, he or she often has little need for extra energy on top of the roughage.
Also think about the teeth, water and exercise
Other things that are important for good digestion are the teeth, the water supply and sufficient exercise. Have the teeth checked regularly by a horse dentist or dental carer. Digestion starts with good chewing and sufficient saliva production. If that doesn’t go well, there may be more gas in the intestines, or other problems. Fresh drinking water is also super important. A horse must be able to drink clean water all day long to keep digestion going. Free movement is also important. This supports the peristalsis (movement) of the intestines. A horse that is in the box all day and only comes out for an hour to train gets unhealthy little exercise.
Support immune system and prevent stress
Finally, you also support a horse with sensitive intestines by preventing stress and supporting the horse’s resistance. Stress negatively affects the gastrointestinal system. So ensure good management with sufficient roughage, social contact and free movement. The immune system can support you by, for example, a nettle cure or a semi-annual detox (not for all horses!).