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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Hind Gut Acidosis

Horses are hindgut digesters and what this means is that most of the food they eat gets processed in the hindgut. They require a large amount of fiber which is converted to energy during this digestion process.

Horses fed high starch/sugar diets such as grains of all types, senior feeds, processed feeds, etc. are at high risk of developing hind gut acidosis. The starch quickly ferments in the hind gut which turns to acid therefore creating an acidic condition in the gut.   This disrupts the microflora of the intestinal tract and has been linked to laminitis and founder.

This has become a widespread problem with the modern domesticated horse.  They are confined and fed large starch meals twice a day instead of having access to grass throughout the day.  The symptoms can manifest in many different ways, such as cribbing, weaving, diarrhea, poor appetite, poor performance, hot and excitable behavior.

One way to check to see if this is the problem is to feed a tablespoon of baking soda mixed with 1 ounce of coconut oil in a syringe.  If there is improvement, chances are your horse's gut was too acid.  The baking soda mixture works well but it doesn't heal the gut.  To do this, it is important to make the correct dietary changes by feeding only grass hays and supplementing with a good vitamin B supplement such as Ex-stress and following the Succeed Digestive conditioning protocol.  This is highly effective in healing the hind gut.

Also read my post on ulcers (dec 2010 post).


  1. I have a question, my vet suggested feeding an alfalfa mixed hay. He said the extra calcium in the alfalfa would help act as a natural "antacid". Any thoughts on this?

  2. I have experimented with this idea and the concept of the extra calcium makes sense although I have not noticed a big difference with it. No harm in trying it as long as the alfalfa does not make up the higher percentage of hay. I have also found that many of the horses with this problem usually have hind gut ulcers. If you heal the ulcers much of the other symptoms improve. The best thing I have found to heal them is lecithin and apple pectin. If your horse is 16H or larger, you need to give one cup of lecithin daily and one tablespoon of apple pectin. You will notice results in a few days. Your horse will begin to be calmer. Using medications to slow the production of stomach acids eventually cause the stomach to actually produce more acid and they cycle repeats.

  3. I'd like to add to this that is important to provide grass hay such as timothy or orchard grass 24/7. This can be put in a hay net or other type of slow feeder. A horse that produces excess acid needs to have access to grass hay all day long. This little bit of nibbling prevents ulcers and stops the excess acid production. When a horse can eat in the manner it was intended it becomes calmer and less nervous, thus the cycle is broken and healing begins.

  4. Hi wingedwolf,

    Where do you buy your lecithin and pectin? I have not been able to find a good, affordable source.



  5. You can get a good quality lecithin from Here is the link:

    For the apple pectin: Starwest botanicals:

    For the average size horse they will need one cup of lecithin daily. It can be divided into two doses or given at one time. Introduce it slowly. Most horses have no problem eating it.