We’re ready to press ‘play’ and get back to summer fun with our horses and ponies, be it competition, clinics, camps or just enjoying getting out and about. However, with the increased workload and regular travel, come challenges to maintaining general health and immunity, and specifically gastric health in athletic horses.
When we think of immunity our first thought is often the white blood cells known as leucocytes. However the immune system is large and complex, and certainly not run just by the leucocytes – in fact they’re not even the most important part. The principle organ of immunity in any vertebrate, including horses, is their digestive system. Within the horse’s gut we find the Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue (GALT), a type of lymphatic tissue that contributes over 70% of the body’s whole immunity1,2. Working alongside the GALT is the microbiome – a vast population of bacteria, yeast, protozoa and funghi, working to optimise digestion which, in turn, provides the energy to work, the building blocks for growth and repair, essential nutrients for every organ in the system, and the fuel to maintain condition3.
Once we understand where immunity really sits, then we can understand that by supporting digestive health we not only help our horse’s get the most from their diet, so maintain a healthy condition, but also support their natural defences. By feeding the microbiome of the hind-gut with a live probiotic yeast, we feed an effective digestibility enhancer, so supporting their overall digestive health. The word ‘probiotic’ means ‘for life’ and remembering that is a simple way to remember how important they are to health.
While pre and probiotics are particularly recognised for the stability and health of the microbiota in the hind-gut, higher up the digestive tract, particularly in the stomach, we need a more complex approach. Probiotics are still important, as microbiota also exist in the stomach4, but in that acidic environment we also need to ensure pH is maintained and stomach walls soothed. We know that the modern equine life of stabling, performance work and regular travel can challenge gastric health. Associated acid splash and compromised stomach mucosa health is now widely recognised as commonly occurring in race and performance horses, and increasingly seen in leisure horses too.
For these horses we would recommend premium digestive tract support, with NAF GastriVet. The unique natural complex of GastriVet has been independently trialled, and is veterinary endorsed for management of a healthy gastric environment, no matter how busy your horse’s summer schedule.