Horse nutrition: Food supplements

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What are prebiotics and probiotics used for? Focus on medicalized foods and vitamin mineral supplements. A subject to discover in our special issue, available on newsstands and online.

Prebiotics are the “fuel” of lactic acid bacteria in the horse’s large intestine. They remain in the digestive tract from which they emerge in the droppings. The molecules used in prebiotics are FOS (fructo-oligosaccharides) and MOS (mannane-oligosaccharides). The first are complex sugars, the second are obtained by extraction from a fermentation of a yeast strain (mushrooms). They have the effect of:
-To reduce the risk of diarrhoea, colic, etc.
-To stabilize the intestinal pH reducing the risk of gastric ulcers.
– To avoid acidosis-type dysfunctions, following the accumulation of lactates (toxins) produced in quantity if the horse performs very intense efforts.

Made up of live bacteria and yeasts, probiotics stimulate the development of good bacteria (saprophyte bacteria), which balance the lactic and cellulosic bacteria (helping with fiber digestion) already present in the intestine. The use of probiotics secures periods of stress (transport, illness, dietary transition and competition). Intestinal well-being = general immune well-being. Indeed, the balance of its intestinal flora is the basis of an immune stimulation which results in the body’s responses to attacks suffered in the digestive tract or any other organ.

“Medicated” foods

Administering a treatment by concealing it on the olfactory and gustatory level is an often effective strategy. For a powder, it must be combined with moistened foods (mash, bran bubbling) or even wet fiber foods (hay, alfalfa) to which it sticks and can thus be ingested. The medicine can be concealed in a hollowed-out food such as carrot, apple, melon or sugar beet. Less “playful” but effective, the use of a gun or a disposable syringe in which the product is mixed with jam, liquid honey or water until a paste is obtained. A word of advice: give it in small doses (25 to 30 ml max) so that the horse swallows them gradually. The horse particularly appreciates the taste of apple, carrot, banana, strawberry, anise, fenugreek, sugar water, liquid honey and molasses (sugar beet juice). Good too: cider vinegar. It is important in the education of the horse that this awareness of accepting oral care is successful from the start.

Vitamin mineral supplement

Each horse needs a vitamin-mineral supplement (CMV) in order to cover its needs ensuring health and a balanced metabolism. The amount of CMV to give depends on the age, sex, conditions and lifestyle of the horse. Different tables on horse nutrition, published by InRAE, exist. There are two categories of minerals: macro-elements (calcium, phosphorus) and trace elements, present in small quantities and which mainly serve as catalysts (iron, copper, zinc, manganese, iodine, etc.). Trace elements and vitamins are the tools of the horse’s body and are essential for its proper functioning. The visible symptoms in case of deficiencies are dull hair, poor horn growth, a deficient immune system… Excess CMV can be as harmful as deficiencies. In order to avoid them, do not multiply the products containing minerals under penalty of this accumulation leading to a toxic dose. Remember that a CMV is to be given in continuity at the risk of seeing the body restart before ending up with nothing all of a sudden.

The nutrition of the horse is a pillar of its well-being. The opportunity to recall the main precepts in terms of diet according to the individual and his pace of life, and to emphasize the role of fruits, vegetables, pre and proprobiotics and CMV (mineral vitamin supplement) in the diet. To be found in our well-being special issue, available on newsstands and online.

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