Probiotics and Prebiotics for Horses

Hershey eating his minerals


It seems we hear a lot about probiotics and prebiotics for horses these days, but what are they exactly?  How do they differ from one another?  And most importantly, does your horse really need them?

Whether we like it or not, bacteria are living inside us all–our horses included.  But bacteria get a bad rap, usually.  Along with the harmful bacteria that can cause illness, there are also beneficial bacteria that help the gastro-intestinal system function properly. Since horses ingest forage on a continual basis (or should be), these ‘good’ bacteria help with the process of fermentation of forage in the gut.  They keep things in balance, so to speak.  And most of us know that horses are prone to digestive problems when things get out of balance.  This is where pro- and prebiotics come into play.



A probiotic is a product containing live microorganisms that benefit the digestive tract. Probiotics are, essentially, the good bacteria (or yeast) which help to break down and ferment forage.  They also help to keep the ‘bad’ bacteria from multiplying in the intestines.  According to Dr. Eleanor Kellon, VMD, the problem with most probiotic products on the market is that they don’t provide an adequate dose.  She does, however, recommend Equine Generator and DFM-EQ.



Prebiotics are ‘food’ for the good bacteria.  Examples of prebiotics include fructooligosaccharides, xylooligosaccharides, polydextrose, mannooligosaccharides, galactooligosaccharides, pectin, and psyllium.  It’s not actually the horse that digests the prebiotics, but the ‘good’ bacteria that do so.

Many feeds or feed ingredients such as beet pulp, flax, and yeast contain prebiotics.  You can feed them daily to help promote a healthy gut.  Two great manufactured prebiotics (again, recommended by Dr. Kellon) are Ration Plus and Forco.  I, personally, feed Ration Plus and have seen good results with my older horses.

Probiotics can be beneficial for these short-term issues:

  • antibiotic use;
  • stress from transport or competition; and
  • abrubt dietary changes.


Probiotics or prebiotics are considered helpful for these long-term issues:

  • horses having trouble holding their weight;
  • older horses with digestion and/or absorbtion difficulties;
  • horses with history of diarrhea, colic, or gas; and
  • young horses up until age 1.


While both pro- and prebiotics are considered to be generally safe, there are a few instances in which they should not be fed (such as to neonatal foals).  It would be a good idea to speak with your vet or an equine nutritionist before administering pro- or prebiotics to your horse.




Horse Journal: Guide to Equine Supplements and Nutraceuticals

Prebiotics and Probiotics


Hi! My name is Casie Bazay. I'm a mom, a freelance writer, and a certified equine acupressure practitioner.

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4 Responses

  1. Summer says:

    I feed Forco and have seen AWESOME results! And it is the most cost effective way I have found to keep my hirers looking good 🙂

  2. Michelle says:

    I been using Equipride by Sweetpro for over 10 years. Check it out too!

  1. October 23, 2013

    […] can cause loose stools since it kills off both the good and bad bacteria in the gut.  Using a pro- or prebiotic is a good idea after giving antibiotics to your horse.  Long-term NSAID (bute/ banamine) use can […]

  2. October 30, 2013

    […] 4.  Feed a high-quality pre- or probiotic as your horse transitions from grass to hay.  Probiotics add beneficial bacteria in the gut to aid the digestive process.  Prebiotics, on the other hand, are basically food for those good bacteria (so they can do their job).  Either one of them can help with feed transitions such as that from grass to hay.  You can read more about pre and probiotics in this post. […]

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