Gut health! It’s so important but also really hard to ‘measure’. One way to get a bit of an indication of what your horse’s hindgut health is like is to check faecal pH.
A healthy hindgut will stay at quite a neutral pH, close to 7. At this pH the good fibre fermenting bacteria will be living happily ever after and doing an amazing job of digesting fibre for your horse.
A high pH (over 8) may indicate that there is not a lot of fibre fermentation happening in the hindgut for some reason, while a low pH (less than 6.5) may indicate that there is too much fermentation of starch and sugars happening. The good fibre fermenting bacteria don’t like living in these lower pH conditions and will be starting to shut down. If pH goes below 6.2 you can be almost certain that a lot of your good fibre fermenting bacteria will be starting to die and your horse will lose the ability to digest fibre (which then causes all sorts of problems including weight loss and vitamin deficiency).
So if you want to do a quick check on hindgut health, grab a ‘soil pH test kit’ (google that, you will find plenty of options for inexpensive kits) and use it on a fresh pile of your horse’s manure. You might find that pH is just right, or you may just find that something is a little out of kilter and you need to adjust the diet to get it back to a more neutral pH.
Have fun! I spent three years of my life measuring faecal pHs, fond memories!
Do you have a question or comment? Do you need help with feeding?
We would love to welcome you to our FeedXL Horse Nutrition Facebook Group. Ask questions and have them answered by PhD and Masters qualified equine nutritionists and spend time with like-minded horse owners. It’s free!