Horse Nutrition


Written by:

Bio not available.

A healthy gut makes a difference in equine nutrition.

If you have a stomachache, you are miserable. That’s the way the horse is too, whether it’s a ranch horse, hunter/jumper horse, rodeo horse, or even just a companion horse. Seventy percent of our immunity is found in the gut and that’s so important to the horse. That’s why Biozyme®, Inc., created the Vitalize® line of equine products.

“Our motto with the Equine Vitalize line is ‘A good gut feeling,’ which is really two-fold,” said Lynsey Whitacre, PhD, who heads up Equine Business Development and Research for the company. “We want the horses to have a good, healthy digestive system so they can perform in whatever way they are asked. It’s also secondary because we want to provide a good gut feeling to the owner. We also want them to feel comfortable knowing they have done everything they can to reduce the risk of common digestive issues in horses like colic, diarrhea or gastric ulcers.”

Because horses are non-ruminant herbivores or hindgut fermenters, their small stomachs can only hold so much, usually around 2-4 gallons for a 1,000-pound horse. This limits the amount of feed a horse can ingest at one time, otherwise, overeating can become a problem.

While horses evolved to be grazers, spending around 16 hours a day grazing pasture, some performance horses are stalled and only receive a ration and hay with little to no time grazing. It’s important to provide quality nutrition for every stage of life the horse is in.

“BioZyme’s heart and soul have been in vitamin and mineral supplementation for the last 60 years,” Whitacre said. “We’ve evolved it twice from that point to provide a pelleted mineral product to better meet the needs of performance horses that are stalled and not out in the pasture. As commercial feeds have become more fortified with their own vitamins and minerals, horse owners have gone more toward that and moved away from homemade diets like oats and barley.”

The foundational product, a loose granular vitamin and mineral free-choice supplement, has been around for 35 years.

“Today it’s called the Vitalize Free Choice Mineral,” Whitacre said. “That’s what led into the rest of the line being developed. The products utilize a couple of key ingredients that help in their efficacy. First and foremost, Amaferm® – BioZyme’s proprietary prebiotic, which has long been known to improve digestion. More recently in the last five years, we’ve also been able to show through university trials and experiments that it actually is able to influence the gut wall to absorb more nutrients. We not only see better digestion in the animals, but the absorption is impacted. In some cases, absorption is up by 30%, so you’re getting a lot more out of what you’re putting in. Some of the Vitalize products also contain an ingredient called MOS that helps in sequestering pathogens.

“Amaferm is really good at stimulating the good bugs and MOS is for getting rid of the bad bugs,” Whitacre said. “We’ve found a common problem with stalled horses is they have some tendencies to want to colic or be difficult to put weight on. We can relate a lot of that back to the gut microbiome, or the population of bacteria and fungi living in the gut. We believe by combining those ingredients together, the Amaferm and the MOS, we can sort of mitigate a lot of those problems and help balance out the digestive system through the gut microbes.”

Photo of horses eating hay representative of horse nutrition.

In addition to the pellets, which can be given daily, BioZyme created a gel product called Equine Recovery Gel.

“It was developed to help eliminate the negative side effects we see with stress in horses,” Whitacre said. “It’s great whenever you anticipate your horse will be under stress or if they are showing signs of stress. We know that stress is somewhat unavoidable, but what we hope to do is minimize its side effects. This gives the gut a jumpstart, which is necessary during times of stress. Even people, when we get stressed, we tend to get butterflies in our system.”

In times of stress, the body is looking at the gut as a non-essential organ, especially in a flight animal like a horse. They are a prey animal, so when they get scared, they want to run. When they are under stress, the body is sending most of the blood flow away from the gut and toward the more vital organs for that time. If that stress is for a short time, it’s really not a problem, but if the stress lasts a longer duration or is chronic stress, then you can get digestive problems starting to pile up.

“The Recovery Gel was designed to go in and work quickly in the gut to replenish some of those nutrients that we know are depleted quickly during stress,” Whitacre said. “It also has Amaferm and MOS to keep that gut microbe balance in check because the bad bugs really like to be opportunistic when the animal is under stress. They’ll take full advantage of that. This is why we as humans also more commonly get sick when we are under a lot of stress.”

Gastric ulcers are a common problem in performance horses as studies have shown 60-90% of performance horses have them. BioZyme created Alimend, a liquid product designed to specifically target stomach discomfort.

“Alimend moves away from nutritional supplements, what was historically the theme of the Vitalize brand, and instead helps support the structure and function of the gastrointestinal tissue,” Whitacre said.

Vitalize Alimend has a unique blend of MHB3® Hyaluronan, H. erinaceous (Lion’s mane) extract, and AO-Biotics® that supports gastric health and GI tissue. This natural product is safe for continuous use and does not alter stomach pH like many gastric products. AO-Biotics® is a precision prebiotic designed to boost animal resilience to challenges and is research-proven to improve gut integrity and immune response.

“It works with the horse’s biology to basically help coat the stomach,” Whitacre said. “Hyaluronan also has some wound healing properties so it can support the wound healing while the other ingredients maintain the integrity of the gut wall. We’ve had a lot of success with this product, and there have been some great clinical trials on gastric ulcer properties of hyaluronan. It’s been exciting and an innovative product to help address the problem of gastric discomfort in horses in a natural way.”

1-Photo Credit:  istockphoto.com/RiverNorthPhotography

2-Photo credit: istockphoto.com/Algul