Managing Immune Response
By: Eric Haydt- Triple Crown Feed
Recently there has been more discussion about incorporating prebiotics and probiotics into horse feeds and supplements to help improve a horse’s overall gut health. As we look for ways to improve immunity in horses, there are a variety of areas that horse owners should explore, including veterinary recommendations, addressing stress and environment and evaluating their nutrition. Owners make important decisions about nutrition that can benefit their horse. Those decisions should include a proper assessment of the role of prebiotics and probiotics.
Types of Immunity
There are two types of immunity that I feel are important. First, is the immunity you can provide for your horses with a proper vaccination schedule. The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) has a recommended list they feel are mandatory for your horse. This may change regionally and your personal veterinarian is the best source for what is recommended in your area.
The second type of immunity comes from your horse’s own internal immune system, primarily located within the digestive system. This immunity is primarily affected by stress, nutrition, and genetics. Since we don’t breed horses for immune traits, you don’t have a lot of control over that part of the equation. This is one of the areas that separates production animal breeding from what we do with horses. Avoiding genetic-based immune function issues is of prime importance to chickens, swine and cattle.
Stress and Nutrition
Stress and nutrition, on the other hand, can be controlled. Stress is dependent on the environment your horse resides in and the tasks you ask it to do. As we all know, some horses stress over the smallest issues while others can handle most anything thrown at them. Like people, the higher the stress levels, the higher the chance of health issues occurring. Take it from someone who recently retired, my health levels and susceptibility to stuff like colds has been dramatically reduced. I’m out of shape but feeling great.
Nutrition is the final key. Most of the immunity cells in a horse, around 80%, are in the digestive system, from the stomach through the large intestine. The proper balance of starch and fiber in the diet helps keep the biodome of bacteria in balance. The problem is that no one knows what that proper balance is as we use horses at different activity levels requiring different amounts of energy. So, there has been more focus on supplements that can be added to the diet to help with this variability.
Prebiotics and Probiotics
Prebiotics and probiotics, at sufficient levels, have been proven to help support the health of the immune system. Probiotics are live bacteria to help replace the good bacteria that may be harmed or lost. Prebiotics support the growth and health of existing live bacteria. But additions of these nutrients must be measured in the billions to hope to have a desirable effect. Digestive enzymes also aid in the digestion of starch, protein and fiber.
Finally, an additive called butyric acid, has shown to be effective in helping close tight junctions in the digestive tract at the cellular level to reduce pathogenic bacteria from entering the blood stream.
Often a horse’s health is measured by just body condition alone. Good immune response is hard to see and measure, but maybe it will help with less calls to the vet.
Only Triple Crown feeds have EquiMix, a unique blend of digestive aids, pre-and probiotics to ensure your horse is getting the nutrition he needs. For nutrition that goes beyond expectations, you can count on Triple Crown.
About the Author:
Eric Haydt, RAS
Senior VP, Business Developmen
Triple Crown Nutrition, Inc.
Eric graduated in 1977 from the Pennsylvania State University with a BS in Accounting, but went immediately in a different direction. Since graduating he has worked in all areas of the feed industry exclusively, including manufacturing, sales, marketing and management primarily in the equine environment. He is currently retired from Triple Crown Nutrition but has been involved from the inception in the Triple Crown feed line, is a member of the American Association of Professional Animal Scientists and a horse owner for 20 years. Eric and Triple Crown are dedicated to staying on the cutting edge of equine nutrition to provide the newest innovations and the healthiest diets for our equine companions.