Probiotics: Healthy Digestion Makes a Happy Horse

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You might have heard that prebiotics and probiotics can help your horse’s digestion, but do you know why? As a trainer, Grace Owsley took it upon herself to learn more about these digestive aids and assess the difference they made in her horses. In this blog, she shares two awesome products that contain prebiotics and probiotics, made by the USA-based company BioEZ Health/Giddyap Girls.

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You may have noticed that several products have come to the equine market advertising that they include some form of pre- or probiotics in them. Probiotic and prebiotic have become popular buzz words over the last several years in regards to health and nutrition for both humans and animals. I feel like most people understand that they are good for us and good for our horses, but they might not know exactly what they are and what they do. I have to admit that I was a bit like that. I recently realized that I had a general idea of what they were and what they were used for, but I knew that wasn’t enough and I needed to do more research.

I am a trainer, and I occupy the rare but in-demand niche of “traveling trainer,” which means I choose not to own and operate my own equestrian facility, but rather I travel to private and public stables and provide horse training, lessons, coaching, judging, etc. Although I’m not the owner of the horses in my training string and I don’t purchase the feed or supplements for these horses, as their trainer I need to be very aware of what type of feed each horse is on and what supplements they are taking. Their sources of sustenance and supplementation influence their overall well-being as well as their training success. At times I may need to counsel with the owner if I feel something needs to be assessed or changed in their feeding regimen. That means I have a responsibility to research. With that in mind, I looked deeper into pre- and probiotics for the equine.

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Grace says her horses' training success can be partially attributed to what sustenance and supplementation they receive.

What are Prebiotics and Probiotics?

Let’s start with probiotics. You may be the most familiar with this one. So, what are they exactly? Probiotics, or microbials, are naturally occurring living organisms that provide a physiological benefit to the host. They are living micro-organisms that occur naturally in the GI tract and help digest food and better absorb nutrients, regulate/stimulate the immune system, and prevent overgrowth of “bad” bacteria that can cause issues like disease, diarrhea, colic, inflammation of the bowel and immune problems. The microbial balance in the digestive system is a delicate balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria, each doing their part to keep the GI tract working properly. Probiotics are also very beneficial to use when your horse is under conditions where their digestive activity may be reduced or disrupted, such as times of increased stress (maybe trailering, showing, weather, seasonal hay changes, water changes or something else depending on your horse), or during a course of antibiotic treatments. The microbial balance can get ‘out of balance,’ and this is when problems can occur.

PREbiotics provide nutrition for the healthy bacteria in the gut, allowing the natural flora to thrive. Think of prebiotics as ‘food’ for the probiotics, making the probiotics more effective. It is very beneficial to give prebiotics along with probiotics instead of by themselves, so look for supplements that include prebiotics along with probiotics.

What Makes BioEZ Better?

A while back, I was offered the chance to try out some of the products made by BioEZ Health/Giddyap Girls, a USA-based business founded by Pamela Berryhill, who started her business with horse treats. After adding probiotics to her treats and seeing the benefits of gut health, she started working on other products in the lineup, including BioEZ®, a digestive optimizer in the form of a powder supplement that can be incorporated into your horse’s regular feed and supplement routine. It is available from Riding Warehouse in different sizes. The 2 lb. bucket lasts approx. 90+ days. The powder form is simple and easy to measure and feed, and you start introducing your horse to it in smaller amounts, gradually increasing to a maintenance dose according to body weight. Hot tip – they have a great chart to help with figuring out just the right dosage on the Giddyap website. (www.giddyap.com)

Just because a product says “contains probiotics” doesn’t necessarily mean that there is enough in it or the right type to provide a benefit. BioEZ® offers a great equine-specific formula. It contains a broad spectrum of 13 digestive enzymes in alkaline, acidic, and neutral that break down feedstuffs for better absorption. It has 4 strains of probiotics to boost the absorption of those nutrients in the hindgut. BioEZ® uses live probiotics and uses a process of microencapsulation, which helps the probiotic pass through the stomach intact, and then come “alive” in the hindgut where microbials do their work. It also has prebiotics, which will help power the probiotics to be more effective. So, what does this mean for your horse?

Here are the potential benefits you may see in your horses by using BioEZ®:
  • Help better absorb nutrients
  • May help reduce colic
  • Alleviate acidosis, diarrhea, hay belly
  • Boost energy, immune function, and nutrient absorption
  • Improve attitude, coat, hooves, and feed utilization

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BioEZ uses microencapsulation so that the probiotics make it to the hindgut to do their work.

My BioEZ Experience

Initially, I tested out the BioEZ® on two horses; DJ, a 16-year-old Arabian gelding, and Vandy, a 17-year-old quarter horse. During a two-week period, we noticed an improvement in the consistency and regularity of their manure and also an increase in coat shine. They had good energy and a willing attitude for their training work. I will say, though, that the true testament came when we noticed that Divine, a senior pony mare owned by my client, started having severe diarrhea. Her owner had to wash her rear end and back legs 1-2 times a day it was so bad. We decided to start her on BioEZ®. After just 3 days on the supplement, her owner reported that she came in from the pasture with much less gunk on her rear areas to clean off! Just 5 days after starting it, her owner reported a major reduction in the mess, meaning her diarrhea issues had improved dramatically in less than a week. I had a feeling it would be beneficial, but I was happily surprised by how quickly we saw results.

All horses can benefit from BioEZ®. It’s the type of supplement that can be taken to prevent future issues, maintain health, or battle current issues, like my example of Divine and her diarrhea above. When the GI tract is working optimally and absorbing all of the body’s nutrient needs from feed, your horse’s overall health and wellness will more likely thrive, and that will affect their training as well. I can say that after my experience trying it on these horses, I’m a fan.

Why I Love Giddyap Girls Treats

Speaking of being a fan, let me change gears and tell you about my favorite horse treats out there. I’m not just saying that because it’s a blog about Giddyap Girls. I can legitimately say that the Giddyap Girls Premium Horse Treats are my favorites out there right now. Let me tell you about them first, and then explain why I like them.

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You don't have to feel guilty about giving your horse these nutritious treats by Giddyap Girls!

The treats come in a shape like a 3-leaf clover. They are available from Riding Warehouse in multiple size options so you can get a smaller bag or a big container of them. Here are the best parts:
  • These are NATURAL treats, meaning no added sugar, no wheat, no wheat gluten, no artificial flavors, colors, or additives.
  • They contain a small amount of live probiotics for intestinal balance to increase nutrient absorption.
  • They have balanced whole grains to sustain energy, antioxidant-rich fruit, and veggies for digestive fibers, vitamins, and minerals to support cellular health.
  • They can snap into smaller pieces, which is great if you’re concerned about choking in older horses, mini horses, foals, or horses in general.
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Break the treats into smaller pieces for horses who might be prone to choking.

I love the shape that these treats come in. The 3-leaf clover shape can be fed whole, or you can easily break them apart into smaller pieces. I have a routine with the horses in my training string. After our ride and before they are turned back out to their pasture, they get to do their stretches for treats. I love that I can break these into smaller pieces so that I can reward them for each separate kind of stretch we do without overdoing the treat consumption. And all the horses seem to love them! I’m also a big “natural” person. I really look out for and prefer products that don’t contain unnecessary additives. I feel so much better about giving the horses I work with a natural and beneficial treat rather than something loaded with sugar and artificial junk. The fact that they also contain probiotics is an awesome extra perk.

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DJ says Giddyap Girls Premium Treats are worth the effort! Grace is photographed here wearing a Kerrits top and Romfh breeches.

I do want to mention that it’s very important to consult with your veterinarian before starting your horse on any kind of supplement. Having an open dialogue with your vet about your horse’s nutrition is essential. I hope this blog was helpful for you to understand the basics of prebiotics and probiotics and how they can benefit your horse. I recommend considering BioEZ® for your horse’s regimen, and you have to try the Giddyap Girls® treats! Happy riding and I hope you and your horses are happy and healthy out there!

To read more of Grace’s blogs and learn about her training program, visit her website. You can also follow her on Instagram (@grace_owsley_dressage) and Facebook (Grace Owsley Dressage). Shop our selection of BioEZ Health/Giddyap Girls products here!
 
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