Pre and Probiotics in Horse Feed

While scanning information about various horse feeds, you may have come across the phrase ‘contains prebiotics and probiotics’….Hmmm, sounds impressive, but what are they, what do they do for your horse, and why are they important?  Pre- and probiotics are considered “functional ingredients” that are added to horse feed to provide benefits to your horse. Here is some information about them and what they can mean for the digestive tract and overall wellbeing of your horse.

Healthy, inside and out
Rosie shows a dappled coat, indicating good health shining from the inside out.

It starts with the gut. The environment of the intestine (a.k.a. gut) contains naturally occurring beneficial microorganisms commonly called  ‘bugs’. Gut bugs are found in all species, including humans, and are essential to the digestion process. For the horse, gut bugs work to break down components of forage and feed as they pass through the digestive tract.  The bugs deconstruct complex molecules within feedstuffs, which releases nutrients and allows the synthesis of energy substrates and important vitamins. Those nutrients are then absorbed through the intestines into the bloodstream, where they become available to cells in the body to support basic maintenance, growth and activity.

Feed that is broken down and digested more completely allows for more nutrients to be readily available for absorption.  This is essentially what probiotics do. Adding probiotics to a horse feed means adding more beneficial bugs to the existing population in the horse’s gut. Probiotics such as yeast culture, work with the naturally occurring bug population to enhance the digestive process, further breaking down complex protein and fiber fractions in the gut and making them more available for absorption into the blood stream. As a probiotic, yeast culture has also been shown to balance and stabilize the digestive microbial ecosystem in the cecum of the horse, as well as help prevent the colonization of bad bacteria in the gut.  A stable microbial ecosystem is beneficial to the horse beyond improvements in digestive and absorption efficiency, it also reduces the risk of digestive upset, such as gas colic, that a horse might experience with changes in feed or hay, or while under stress from transportation, shows, changes in weather or other.

Prebiotics can be thought of as an energy jolt for the gut bugs.  Prebiotics are a rich nutrient source for the gut bugs (e.g. lactobacilli, bifidobacterial) which in turn stimulates their growth and activity, making them more effective at their job. Research has shown that prebiotics help stabilize the population of gut bugs even through sudden changes in the diet, which helps to reduce incidents of digestive upset.  For performance horses who require energy dense diets that include higher levels of starches and sugars, prebiotics can help reduce the incidence of digestive disorders and support optimal performance.  Prebiotics such as inulin and oligofructose are selectively fermented by the gut bugs, stimulating their growth and activity, which benefits the horse by enhancing the absorption and retention of certain minerals, which in turn can support the immune system, skeletal tissue, and more.

The population of bugs in the gut are sensitive to changes in their environment brought on by stress, illness or the ingestion of undesirable materials .The addition of pre- and probiotics to a diet has been shown to be beneficial in reducing the incidence of digestive upset, namely diarrhea. For senior horses, the use of pre- and probiotics in feeds has been shown to improve the digestibility and absorption of nutrients, which can translate into an enhanced quality of life.  In summary, pre- and probiotics work with the naturally occurring gut bugs to support optimal gut health, aid in the digestion process, as well as provide a buffer against negative bacteria.

7 Replies to “Pre and Probiotics in Horse Feed”

  1. Hey there! I just have a question about the pre and probiotics! Are these found in Nutrena feeds, such as SafeChoice? I have yet to come across a bag of any feed that actually says, ‘Contains Prebiotics and Probiotics.’

    1. Hi Becca,

      Thank you for your question! All premium Nutrena feeds, including SafeChoice have added pre and probiotics in them which you can find on our website:

      Recent regulatory changes have allowed us to call out the addition of pre and probiotics by this nomenclature. Our teams are currently working to update all of our packaging and tagging. If you have any questions, please feel free to let us know.

      Megan C.

  2. So I was wondering if the probiotics that are in your feeds are sufficient enough to replace a probiotic supplement? I am looking to put my horse on probio because he has loose stool and seen your product had probiotics in it, which would be convinient to just feed that instead of a supplement and feed. So would your feed to the same as a probiotic supplement?

    1. Hello Deanna,

      Thanks for the question. The level of pre & probiotics in Nutrena horse feeds are a low level maintenance dose for horses without specific concerns. We would suggest a treatment level dose for your horse, then a maintenance does of a specific product until he has normalized. After that, the lower level found in a feed may be enough to keep him consistent!

      Hope that helps ~ Gina T.

  3. Is Aspergillus meal being used as a pre-biotic in the horse feeds ?

    If I were to feed Aspergillus meal to my horse, what will be the recommended dose per day ?

    1. Hi Edwin,
      Thank you for your interesting question regarding the use of Aspergillus meal (Fermacto) as a prebiotic in horse feeds. We are not currently using this product as a prebiotic in horse feeds.

      The published work that we have reviewed has been primarily focused on application in poultry, particularly broilers and turkeys, where some protein sparing and possible gut health benefits are reported.

      I would recommend that you contact Pro-Ag, a U.S. distributor of this product for feeding recommendations for horses at They may be able to provide their feeding recommendations for this product for horses based on their work in developing and marketing the product.”

      Best wishes

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