“You can’t build a strong building on a weak foundation” – George Hinckley

The horse’s underlying gut health is critical for his overall health. So how do you know the horse is getting the most out of the feed that you are feeding? In the past two weeks of Tuesday Deep Dives we discussed the benefits of both Fiberforce and HepatoLiq. The third product we recommend together with those two “Foundation” products is Cavalor Vitaflor365. Before we dive into Vitaflor365, it’s important to understand the importance of hindgut health.

The horse’s hindgut is an important factor in the horse’s overall health and immunity. The hindgut’s primary responsibility is to ferment fiber and convert fiber into volatile fatty acids, which then provides energy to the horse. To that end as horse owners, it’s important that we feed the horse in a way that will maintain proper hindgut pH. The pH can fluctuate due to the quality and quantity of feed in the hindgut, but most commonly, an issue will come about when concentrates are fed at too high of a feeding rate per meal. The horse’s normal hindgut pH may be in the 6.5-7 range, but an acidic hindgut might be as low as 5, which can cause acidosis and a range of symptoms including a disinterest in feed, weight loss, colic, and behavior changes.

That being said, the pH of the stomach depends mostly on how much forage is fed to the horses. The more forage and chewing throughout the day means a higher pH, which is better for the horse in general, no matter what additional feed you feed. Stomach acid secretion is continuous in horses but an increased release is triggered by the act of eating and filling of the stomach itself within 15 minutes. Low density feedstuffs like forage typically float on top on to stomach liquid thereby keeping the acid in the bottom. This prevents acid from splashing up and causing ulcerations in the top part of the stomach. A feed like FiberForce is extremely light, fluffy with low density and will do the same as forage and thereby helps protect the stomach from ulcers while also supplying all essential nutrients.

The pH of the hindgut is important for overall gut health, and the hindgut is responsible for fiber digestion. To that end, it is also essential for a healthy microbial population and maintaining the integrity of the large intestine. The hindgut is the most essential and influential body part of the horse. Hindgut health affects all other metabolic processes and poor hindgut health is the cause of several diseases and it affects all other organs. A healthy gut means a healthy horse.

So, knowing what we know about the hindgut, how can we continue to support it?

Cavalor Vitaflor365 is a powered supplement containing live yeast cultures that can help regulate and support the microbial populations of the horse’s hindgut. It’s ideal for restoring the intestinal flora following the use of antibiotics, for hard keepers, and for horses needing to gain weight (horses suffering from poor nutrient absorption). It can also help prevent acidification from occurring in the hindgut, which is a risk with horses being fed rations high in cereal grains. In turn, it will improve fiber digestion and B vitamin production by the microbial populations while reducing the risk for colic.

Prebiotics promote the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the intestines, and B vitamin production. The optimal function of good bacteria leads to improved hindgut digestion and protection from acidosis when too much concentrate is fed. Vitaflor365 includes Inulin, a fructooligosaccharide (FOS), which belongs to the family of prebiotic compounds. This stimulates the growth of a number of species already present in the colon. Inulin is not stored in the body, so it’s important to give daily to “feed” the microbes that protect against pathogens.

Additionally, it contains high quality probiotics. Probiotics are live bacteria that support the existing “good” bacteria in the horse’s gut. The bacteria use lactic acid in the colon and prevent acidification (lowering of the pH). They enhance the digestion of crude fiber, the absorption of minerals and the production/absorption of B-vitamins. They also support immunity to maximize the horse’s performance and promote healthy weight gain through better feed utilization. By optimizing the intestinal flora, the horse can the most out of its feed and the body’s immunity is strengthened.

When choosing a hindgut support product, it is important to choose one that has probiotics in the billions. It is also important to make sure the product will work to address the underlying issue, rather than just the symptom. Poor daily nutrition can cause a shift in the bacterial population stimulating growth of starch utilizing bacteria and reducing fiber digesting bacteria. That’s what Vitaflor365 is working on – to stimulate growth of healthy bacteria to actually solve to underlying problem. Vitaflor365 treats the underlying problem long term, and when used in combination with some dietary changes, and it is much more natural for the horse than many alternatives.

Tips and Tricks

Does my horse need a supplement for hindgut support?

Some horses maybe ok without this type of supplement, but if the horse has had a high sugar and high starch diet, along with stress, antibiotic use, etc., there may be an imbalance. Using Vitaflor365 doesn’t have to be a long term commitment supplement to get the horse’s hind gut on track. 30-60 days is sufficient and then it can be stopped.

My horse won’t eat his feed now that I’ve added Vitaflor365!

Use a spatula from your kitchen and really mix it well, or add water and mix well. It doesn’t have a strong taste or smell like some other Cavalor products. Another option is to add it in a little slower. Start with ¼ to a ½ of the normal dose, then once the horse eats that, up the dose.

If I’m feeding Cavalor feeds, why do I need to add a supplement?

If you’ve spent years feeding compressed pellets, this is going to help your horse transition successfully. During the transition think of it as a “treatment”. The horse’s hindgut can still get off balance. For instance a round of antibiotics could throw the microbial population off, and then a round of Vitaflor365 could be very useful. This supplement is also good for horse that tend to not be very thrifty and require more food. This means that they are not absorbing all of their nutrition and a round or two of Vitaflor365 could correct that problem to bring their weight up and feeding rates down.