Weaning Is Likely The Most Stressful Event Of A Horses Life

Weaning Is Likely The Most Stressful Event Of A Horses Life

Weaning Is Likely The Most Stressful Event Of A Horses Life

By: Sam Potter (BSc(Hons), MPhilVSc (Equine Nutrition)

It will be no surprise to most horse owners when we say that weaning is likely the most stressful event that will occur in your horse's life. 

During stressful events like weaning, the microbiome (eg. bacteria, fungi etc.) in the gut changes and this may have negative consequences on health. 

Providing support to the gut prior to and at weaning may minimise the longer-term impacts of weaning on your foal’s development.

While stress is a normal response, it can impact your foal’s development through lowered feed intake, weight loss and by increasing the risk of infection.

It isn’t clear if the gut microbiome changes in response to stress hormones or if the microbiome plays a role in regulating the stress response or a combination of both scenarios.

BUT the key is that the microbiome changes when our horses are stressed. 

Studies have reported an increased diversity of microbial populations during stress however this diversity appears to come from an increased number of pathogenic bacteria, which is undesirable.

So, during periods of stress we likely have a chain of events which could impact your weanlings health:

  1. Change in microbiome diversity whereby numbers of pathogenic bacteria increase and cause damage to the gut lining;
  2. Reduced capacity of ‘good’ bacteria, therefore, decreased production of nutrients produced in the gut eg. B-vitamins and vitamin K;
  3. Increased requirements for some nutrients and;
  4. Reduced production of other nutrients in the body eg. vitamin C. 

    How To Prepare Your Foal For Weaning

    To prepare your foal for weaning:

    1. Transition to the post-weaning diet at least 14 days prior to weaning.
    2. Introduce Digestive EQ prior to weaning to ensure the ‘good’ bacteria are thriving and the gut lining is in good order. 
    3. Use Stress Paste the night before weaning and for up to 5 days post-weaning for additional protection and support throughout the gut, plus provide essential nutrients during this stress period. Stress Paste also provides a powerful buffer and pectin which coats the stomach, both targeted towards reducing the risk of gastric ulceration.    

    It is apparent that the gut microbiome is altered during stressful periods such as weaning. 

    Make dietary changes at least 14 days prior to weaning and use Digestive EQ and Stress Paste strategically during weaning, with the aim of minimising the impact and length of gut microbiome changes in response to stress, to prevent long term impacts on your foal’s health and development. 


    A Review of Digestive EQ & Stress Paste While Weaning

    "I recently used Stress Paste and Digestive EQ from Poseidon Equine whilst weaning my 5-month-old foal.

    He was on Stress Paste for a couple of days prior to weaning and he was already on Digestive EQ whilst on the mare creep feeding.

    He remained on the Stress Paste for one week after weaning and I continued using Digestive EQ in his hard feed once a day.

    I was amazed as weaning can be a stressful time and he didn’t go off his food and looks extremely healthy.

    The mare is also still on Digestive EQ and looks amazing."

    - Becky Lock