Horses - Diet and Nutrition/IBS?


I am leasing a lovely 10 year old 17 hh thoroughbred gelding. I have been told he has IBS. The vet has tried everything ( supplements, testing for parasites, Celmax, testing for E-Coli...) ....He shoots brown water between bowel movements.
( usually before going ).
The brown water runs down his legs.

The manure is formed, and a little on the yellow side. He drinks a lot of water when he eats his hay and he soaks it himself as he eats it.
He eats local hay, alfalfa plus grain and beet pulp(and carrots). All very high quality. He has lunch as well as morning and evening feeds. He is at a lovely barn and has no stress , he gets along with the other horses. I see him every day; whether I ride or not he gets turned out.

I wonder why this brown water gets shot out between bowel movements, why is this water not being absorbed by the colon? and Why is his manure not more like good ole' dark brown road apples?

Is this IBS?

Hi Melissa,

Thank you for your question.  I'm not sure that horses suffer from a true IBS as people do, they have quite a different digestive system.  You've done well to consult your vet about your horse's issue and your vet is likely on the right track.  

The symptoms that you describe are indicate that your horse has an imbalance in his hindgut.  Although the watery manure your horse has resemble diarrhea, it is more likely caused by either some form of pathogenic bacteria or hindgut acidosis and less likely to be a more disease/disorder based diarrhea caused by increased rate of passage.  The ill-formed/colored manure also suggests that forages are not being properly fermented.  The reasons why the bacterial populations in the hindgut can shift are intriguing and often hard to explain...and it is not unusual to have 1 horse in a group of well managed horses develop difficulties where his stable mates would not.  

Fortunately, natural balance in the cecum is relatively easy to re-establish with the help of a quality pre/probiotic.  I would suggest that you try either Alltech's LifeForce Formula or SmartPak Equine's SmartDigest Ultra. You will see a difference in his manure within a few days, however you should continue to feed either of the products for about 2 months.  After that, you may well be able to take him off the supplement without any negative effects....or you may choose to keep him on it. I think you'll find they really help.  I would also ensure that your horse has salt available in his diet, and I prefer feeding loose salt in his feed rather than just supplying a block.  Start with 1/8 cup per day, which you can split between feedings.  My favorite trick to feeding loose salt is to mix the salt with the beet pulp water before you add the bp pellets.   Dissolve the salt then add the beet pulp pellets.

I think this will help your big guy.

Thanks, Corlena

Horses - Diet and Nutrition

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Corlena Patterson


I can help with any of your horse nutrition questions and concerns. I have been involved with horses for closing on 40 years, with a B.Sc in Animal Science and currently working on an M.Sc in Equine Science with the University of Edinburgh. I have owned my own feed store, consulted professionally as an equine nutritionist, and lectured in the fields of equine and dairy nutrition at the University level for 5 years. I have developed and currently market 'Ration-X', a ration formulation program for horses...designed for the everyday horse owner. I am happy to help in any way I can.


Experienced in developing and implementing feed programs for horses of all disciplines, creating custom horse supplements and managing inter-disciplinary equine facilities. Specialize in equine nutrition consulting.

The American Society of Equine Appraisers

'Stable Management' Handbook, Equine Canada.

M.Sc (Equine Science-current), B.Sc(Agr) Animal Science, Equine Sports Massage Therapy Certification, Farrier Certification, Equine Consultant Certification, Certified Equine Appraiser, Certified in Emergency Equine Rescue.

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