The equine intestinal microbiome is an ecosystem within a horse's gastrointestinal system; it's a population of fungi, yeast, bacteria and protozoa, reports The Horse. The microbiota in the gut has multiple roles, including protecting horses from infection, helping with digestion and nutrient absorption, triggering the immune system and providing energy. The number of microorganisms found in a horse's gut is hard to comprehend: there are approximately one billion microorganisms per gram of ingesta in the cecum.
Researchers had previously thought that the microbiome composition might be breed-specific, meaning that it might influence equine health and behavior. Wild horses have more-diverse microbiomes than domesticated horses and breeding for select performance-related traits could also be breeding for specific intestinal microbiomes, Dr. Núria Mach theorized. This selected breeding could then affect metabolism and energy production
However, Dr. Núria Mach discovered that the microbiome is not breed specific at all. Mach used two separate fecal samples from 189 healthy Anglo Arabian, Belgian sport, French Saddle, Hanoverian, Lusitano and Oldenburg horses. The fecal samples were taken eight months apart. All the horses were kept at the same riding school in France.
They discovered that breed did not have a great affect on the microbiota in the feces; there were about 30 core microbiota found in all breeds during both fecal tests. The researchers determined that this means that there is no specific bacterial species that can serve as a biomarker for performance in horses.
Read more at The Horse.
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