The Gut Microbiome

What is the Gut Microbiome?

The intestinal microbiome includes the trillions of microbiota and their genes that live and interact in the horse’s digestive tract. Because horses are hindgut fermenters, the health of the equine gut microbiome is especially important.  The types and amounts of the microbes are believed to play an important role in many equine health conditions and that a more diverse gut microbiome can better tolerate illness, stresses, etc.

Just some of the questions this project may answer:

  • Can a sick horse or injured horse recover more quickly when they maintain more diverse gut microflora?
  • How does lifestyle, including living environment, diet and stress, affect the equine gut microbiome? 
  • How does nutrition affect the diversity of the equine gut microbiome?

What Types of Bacteria Make Up the Equine Microbiome?

Bacteroidetes Phylum composed of three classes of Gram-negative, non-spore-forming, anaerobic, and rod-shaped bacteria

Firmicutes Most have Gram-positive cell wall structure and can form endospores

Fibrobacteres An important phylum of cellulose-degrading bacteria

Proteobacteria Phylum of bacteria responsible for nitrogen fixation

Verrucomicrobia Phylum of bacteria that is part of the PVC superphylum

Current Equine Microbiome Research

Equine veterinary researchers have been studying correlations between gut microbiome diversity and disease states for several years. Though still in its infancy and unconfirmed, the opportunity for improving lives of humans and animals alike, has unbounded potential.

Research shows there may be associations between a horse’s microbiome and diseases such as:

Post partum colic icon
Laminitis icon
Ems icon
Post partum colic icon



Changes in mares' gut bacteria foreshadowed the development of post-partum colic. +

Laminitis icon



Researchers looking at horse's gut bacteria believe an overgrowth of pathogenic ("bad") bacteria may be what contributes to lameness in the carboyhydrate overload model of acute laminitis. ^

Ems icon



Researchers found that horses with Equine Metabolic Syndrome had less microbial diversity than their counterparts without the disease. *

+ Changes in faecal microbiota of mares precede the development of post-partum colic. Weese JS et al 2015. Abstract Here

^ Illumina sequencing of the V4 hypervariable region 16S rRNA gene reveals extensive changes in bacterial communities in the cecum following carbohydrate oral infusion and development of early-stage acute laminitis in the horse. Moreau MM et al 2014. Abstract Here

* Comparison of fecal microbiota in horses with EMS and metabolically normal controls fed a similar all-forage diet. Elzinga et al 2016 Journal of Equine Veterinary Science 44 (2016) 9-16. Abstract Here

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