By: Lynsey Whitacre, M.S., Equine Specialist for BioZyme, Inc.
The increasing temperatures of summer not only make working outside uncomfortable for us, but they also have a major impact on our horses and their overall performance. Negative responses to heat stress include going off feed, decreased fertility and overall poor performance.
Horses are amazing animals that are able to accomplish a variety of skills ranging from performing, working and simply being a great companion. Those of us in the horse industry love the thrill of successful training, winning performances and reaching our horses on a deeper level, but as with all good things, we must remember first things first. Great horses can only be the best when they feel their best, and naturally, great health begins in the gut. As a matter of fact, 70 percent of all the cells that make up the immune system are located in the gut wall.
Maintaining a Healthy Gut
In addition to simple management practices like providing abundant water and shade, as well as not working horses during extreme heat, we can also manage heat stress from the inside out. Some have hypothesized that the minimum threshold where animals begin experiencing heat stress is a function of the demands on the animal, so thinking about gut health is important.
There are two categories of products that horse owners can use to maintain a healthy gut and increase their horse’s digestive efficiency. Probiotics are a way to add live bacteria to the gut, while prebiotics are food for the microscopic organisms already living there.
Amaferm® from BioZyme Inc. is a natural prebiotic that is unique to the market—it is the only known product to show significant, positive growth to fungi, an important component of effective forage digestion. Fungi stimulated to work and reproduce faster prepare the way for revved-up bacteria to do their job to their fullest potential. The results are better digestion, more energy and healthier horses with greater potential to deal with the demands put on them.
Keeping Horses Hydrated
During the heat of summer is the time of year for horse owners to be super aware of keeping their horses hydrated. Horses consume 5 to 10 gallons of water a day and it is crucial, all year around, to be aware of your horse’s drinking habits. Dehydration is one of the most common issues that can lead to illness and colic; this is especially true when the heat is in full-force and horses are adapting to the climate change. Water is what helps horses regulate their body temperature, facilitate digestion and absorb nutrients.
When it comes to watering horses, clean water is one of the most important factors. Keeping more than one water source for your horse is a good idea because some horses are particular about where they drink. Always check your water sources since they can get filled with hay, manure, feed, algae, etc., which can make your horse not want to drink. Dumping your buckets once a day is a good way to make sure your horses are supplied with clean water.
It has been proven that horses prefer to drink water that is around 50 degrees. Ice-cold water is not as satisfying to the horses as it is to us. Horses that live outside need to be checked closer since their water troughs and buckets can become extremely hot in this weather and cause them to not want to drink cold water. When you turn your hose on, let it run for a minute or so because the water can be very hot at first from sitting in the sun. Be aware of these details so your horse has accessible water that they are willing to drink.
It is also important to not let your hose sit in the bucket of water when watering your horses. Hoses can build up all kinds of germs and rust on the end of the hose and where the hose has been sitting for a long time. You do not want these things in your horse’s water. It can make the water taste different and it can be unhealthy. Let your hose run for a minute or so before you start watering and keep your hose off the ground and in a clean environment so that there is a less chance of bad stuff getting in your horse’s water.
Electrolytes can be added to your horse’s water when the horse is not as good about drinking enough. One may use powdered electrolytes, or even Gatorade. These are all good additives to helping your horse stay hydrated. Salt blocks can also be added to your horse stalls or paddock. The salt will make your horse want to take in more water and provides your horse with a source of entertainment.
Scientific research published on Amaferm and heat stress found that Amaferm increased water intake by 9.5% and significantly reduced rectal temperature when ambient temperature was greater than 98.6°F.
Just be sure to keep an eye on your horse’s water intake and be aware of his feeding habits. Just like humans, different horses have different needs and habits and it is crucial to cater to your horse for their health and hydration, especially in the heat.
Maintaining Energy During Summer
Horses are hind gut fermenters, meaning they digest simple carbohydrates in their foregut, but rely on the incredible digestive abilities of the hindgut, along with its special forces, to break down the much more complex diet of forages that nature intended for them. The special forces necessary to the hindgut are the fungi that tear into the heavily fortified plant cellulose to expose a nutrient-dense interior that the bacteria swoop in to break down so absorption can take place. The horse’s hindgut and its microscopic companions make an amazing biological team that make it possible to produce life’s most precious commodity: energy.
No matter where we would like to spend our horse’s energy, their bodies remember that everyday maintenance of life is at the top of the to-do list and the rest of life’s activities follow in decreasing priority: growth and development, immunity, lactation, reproduction and finally chasing down that dream of ours. Meeting their energy requirements is necessary for healthy, happy horses, but when we are asking our horses to be a step above the rest, we must take the initiative to make sure the extra energy for superior stamina and performance is available, particularly when temperatures are higher.
So whether your goal is to make your horse slick and shiny in the pasture; content and dependable on the trail; graceful and athletic in the arena; or strong and enduring on the ranch during the hot summer months, remember to keep your horse well hydrated and maintain a healthy gut by feeding supplemental prebiotics. You will see a reduction in heat stress when you are able to completely satisfy your horse’s nutritional and energy needs when the temperatures get hot.
BioZyme (www.biozymeinc.com) develops and manufactures natural, proprietary vitamin, mineral, trace mineral and protein supplements for a variety of animals including cattle, pigs, poultry, sheep, goats, horses and dogs.