Editor’s Note: Since this article was published, the ColiCare program has been upgraded to provide up to $15,000 in colic surgery reimbursement. Click here to learn more.


Knowing what sort of support your horse needs can be tough, but it can also make a big difference.

We know there’s a lot of confusion between your horse’s foregut health and hindgut health. After all, the process of breaking down food and absorbing nutrients is all technically “digestion,” so isn’t it all the same? Not quite. The organs in the foregut and hindgut have very different functions, and each area has unique health concerns. An unhealthy stomach is at risk for gastric ulcers, while an unhealthy hindgut is at risk for colic and other digestive upset. As if all that’s not complicated enough, colic is not only the primary problem in the hindgut, it’s also a general term for abdominal pain, which means mild, recurrent colic can also be a sign of gastric ulcers. However, for the purposes of this article, when we say colic*, we’re referring to problems (gas, impaction, twists, etc.) in the organs that make up the hindgut. Confused? Have no fear—SmartPak’s here to help! In parts 1 & 2 of this blog, we’ll look at each condition in greater detail, and identify ways you can help support your horse.


Now that we’ve covered the stomach, what’s next? Technically, the small intestine is the next organ in your horse’s GI tract, as it is the second portion of the foregut. However, since this article focuses on the two main “problem” areas, we’re going to move on to the hindgut—what it does, what can go wrong, and how you can help keep your horse healthy.

In horses, the term “hindgut” refers to the section of the GI tract containing the cecum, large colon, small colon, and rectum.

The hindgut is responsible for digesting the complex or structural carbohydrates your horse eats, including all of his forage (hay, pasture, etc.). Since at least 60% of your horse’s diet should be made up of forage, there’s obviously a lot of work to be done!

If your horse’s hindgut isn’t functioning properly, it can cause a variety of problems. Excess gas, impaction, and loose stool can all result from hindgut upset or malfunction. Even more concerning, digestive upset can lead to colic, which can be fatal.

Colic is a general, catchall term used to refer to any sort of abdominal pain in horses (in layman’s terms, it’s a belly ache). While some cases may be so mild that you don’t even notice, a severe case of colic is a medical emergency. In fact, colic is responsible for more deaths in horses than any other condition.

Unfortunately, research has shown that many day-to-day barn events are proven to increase a horse’s risk of colic.
Changes in hay, including switching types or feeding a new cut, can increase your horse’s chances of developing colic by 10 times. In addition, changing grain (type or amount) can increase a horse’s colic risk up to five times.
And the risks don’t end there!

To learn more about colic risk factors and your horse’s current risk level, visit SmartPak.com/ColicRiskQuiz

While nothing can prevent occasional digestive upset, working with your veterinarian to ensure your horse is being managed and fed appropriately may reduce his risk level. One approach your vet may recommend is daily support from a supplement to help your horse cope with digestive stress.

Supporting a healthy hindgut
When choosing a digestive supplement for your horse, look for a formula that provides comprehensive support for a healthy, balanced hindgut.

Perhaps the most common ingredient horse owners look for is probiotics, which are live microorganisms that play a key role in the digestive process. Other ingredients for hindgut health include:
• Prebiotics shown to reduce disruption in the hindgut6
• Yeast demonstrated to improve fiber digestion and assist in adjusting to feed changes7
• Enzymes shown to increase proper digestion of starch in the foregut8

It’s also important to work closely with your veterinarian to develop a wellness program that supports optimal health. That’s why in order to be eligible for ColiCare, our FREE $7,500 colic surgery reimbursement program, horses must follow a veterinarian- directed wellness program.


Read Part 3 of this blog series, featuring one smart solution