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Microbiome Diversity and the Horse's Hind Gut: What Does it all Mean?

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

At Equibiome, we often discuss the importance of diversity of the microbiome to the horse’s health. Our equine faecal test kits use state-of-the-art MiSeq Next Generational Sequencing technology to analyse microbial diversity in the horse’s hind gut. This blog article outlines information on the importance of diversity to the horse’s gut health.

What is Microbiome Diversity?

There are trillions of microorganisms living in the horse’s gastrointestinal tract, with about 1,000-1,500 bacterial species making up around 95% of the biome. The other 5% of the biome is made up of archaea, protozoa, fungi and viruses.

Many of these microorganisms are good, contributing to the normal functioning of essential processes. The microbial community performs functions such as the extraction of energy and nutrients from food, synthesis of vitamins, interaction with the immune system and more.

Having a diverse microbiome allows the horse to benefit from having a wide range of good bacteria and other microorganisms, as each type of microbe has its own role. Horses with a greater diversity of the microbiome are more resilient to disease and allergies, and are less likely to develop gastric ulcers, laminitis, obesity and other diseases.

What Factors Affect Diversity of the Microbiome?

The microbial community can be affected by a range of factors. Diet, fatigue, stress, antibiotics, NSAIDs and time spent stabled can all impact the microbiome.

Around 20% of the horses we see have a low biodiversity score. Often, these are horses with gastric conditions such as colitis and “leaky gut”.

Around 70% of horses fall into a mid-range biodiversity score. It is common for these horses to also have arthritis, allergies and food sensitivities. Furthermore, these horses are likely to have a higher level of bacteria associated with inflammation.

Around 10% of the horses taking the EquiBiome test fall into the high biodiversity category. Usually, these horses have a good number of many different species in the microbiome, and the microbiome tends to be relatively undisrupted by medications, diet and environmental factors.

Links Between The Horse’s Microbiome and Equine Gut Health

The jury is still out on whether or not horses can have hind gut ulcers. However, we do know that hind gut disease is the largest killer of horses (i.e. colic) and the most common source of discomfort (colitis). Gastric problems are common in horses, and equine gut health remains a major topic of discussion among horse owners, vets, nutritionists and equine scientists.

There are links between gut bacteria and conditions such as equine metabolic syndrome (EMS), obesity and endocrinopathic (hormonal) laminitis. Furthermore, long-term imbalances of the microbiome may result in little or no response to a change in diet or medication. Therefore, it makes sense to investigate the link between the equine microbiome and diseases of the gut.

About Equibiome

Equibiome is the first equine dedicated laboratory service, specialising in the identification of the equine hind gut microbial population and its relationship to health and performance. It uses the latest MiSeq Next Generational Sequencing technology to produce a snapshot of the internal microbial population, identifying imbalances, inflammation, pain, poor immunity and reduced gut wall integrity.

The Equibiome test uses the same state-of-the-art technology that is currently revolutionising human health care management to produce accurate and relevant data. This data is then interpreted by an experienced team of biochemists, equine microbiologists and geneticists and presented to you as an easy to read report. We use the Shannon Index to calculate the diversity of the microbiome, factoring in both the number of species and the numbers of each different species.

Our aim is to help horse owners better understand their horse’s hind gut health and take the guesswork out of what and how to feed their horse. Order your Equibiome test kit today via our online shop.

Our products are not designed to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease.

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