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The Importance of Gut Heath: Preparing for Competition

As the season kicks off, our horses’ routines change considerably. They might be allowed extra paddock time, access to fresh grass or new batches of forage. Work rates may increase significantly requiring higher energy and nutritional demands. Horses may have to travel for lengthy periods to get to competitions, and some may even need to be stabled overnight at bigger events, greatly disrupting their routine. While some horses take this shift in diet and management practice all in their stride, others find it more challenging, resulting in undesirable behaviours and digestive disturbances. 


Disruption to gut microbiome: fresh grazing tends to be higher in calories than preserved forages such as hay or haylage. Therefore, horses that are transitioning from stabling to longer turn out times are likely to need a revision of their diet to ensure they don’t get over-conditioned while concurrently, all nutrient requirements are being met. This dietary change can cause a disruption to the gut microbiome, particularly when the change is made abruptly. Nutri-Gard contains prebiotics which fuel the horse’s microbiome, encouraging “good” beneficial bacteria to thrive and reducing the risk of bad pathogenic bacteria from populating. 

Increased risk of gastric ulceration: stress and intermittent feeding are just two of many risk factors associated with gastric ulcers. Nutri-Gard contains amino acids which support mucin production to line and protect the digestive tract. Pectin is also included to buffer excess stomach acid, often associated with large concentrate meals, especially if they are high in NSCs (sugar/starch), that might be needed to meet energy demands from elevated work rates. Nutri-Gard contains oat fibre which is rich in beta-glucans, a valuable prebiotic that fuels the bacteria of the equine hindgut, supporting immune function and acts like a gel in the intestines, slowing transit time and facilitating optimal digestion Elevated fitness levels can reduce appetite, meaning chewing is reduced and subsequently, less production of the horse’s naturally buffering saliva. Less saliva contributes to excess stomach acid and increases the risk of gastric ulcers developing 

Increasing appetite: the B-vitamins in Nutri-Gard can help promote appetite as your horse’s routine changes, ensuring he maintains condition and gets the nutrients he needs to perform at his best in the busy competition season. B-vitamins are essential for blood cell formation and for optimal metabolism, maximising the diet for energy production.  

Increased susceptibility to disease: the stress associated with a change in routine causes increased cortisol levels and disruption to the delicate gut microbiome. This can result in a reduced ability to fight disease and infection. Illness during the competition period can be detrimental for health as well as performance. The postbiotics included in Nutri-Gard have been showed to help stress-challenged horses by reducing cortisol levels, stabilising microbial populations, and improving immune responses. 

Increased risk of colic: research has shown that horses have a greater risk of colic 7-14 days after dietary changes. Impaction colics may occur in stabled horses due to a reduced water intake which can be common as horses change stabling routines. Ensure clean, fresh water is available at all times, supplementing with electrolytes when travelling to encourage adequate hydration. Regular exercise will also assist the movement of digesta through the tract. Gas colics, on the other hand, may result from sudden dietary changes causing disruption to microbial populations. Reduce this risk by introducing dietary changes slowly, including forage changes, keeping meal sizes small and supplementing with Nutri-Gard prior to and during these changes to help make the horse’s gut more robust. 

For further advice on gut health and supplementation, get in touch with our team today.

Related Products

Nutri-Gard

Nutri-Gard

Scientifically advanced gut supplement formulated to support stomach and hindgut health and maintain overall digestive function. Contains 12 key ingredients including prebiotics, probiotics and B-vitamins

View Product

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