The ins and outs of prebiotics and probiotics

The ins and outs of prebiotics and probiotics

The intestines of horses are home to numerous bacteria, viruses, yeasts and fungi, which together form the microbiome. This microbiome plays a crucial role in their welfare. It helps maintain a healthy intestinal wall and strengthens the immune system. This makes the horse less susceptible to diseases and helps it recovers faster if it does become ill. Protecting and supporting a healthy microbiome is essential for a healthy horse. Pre- and probiotics play an important role in staying healthy. You can read more about the wonderful world of these bacteria in this article.
Fibre-rich food as the main ingredient

Before we discuss prebiotics and probiotics, we first need to explain a little bit more about the microbiome. The horse has more microbial cells in and on its body than animal cells. In fact, it’s more microbiome than horse. A horse therefore carries billions of microbes, with which it has evolved to form a symbiosis, receiving many benefits from the microorganisms present. The microbiome therefore has a major influence on the health of the horse. However, the microbiome is very sensitive and is easily influenced by external and internal factors such as stress, diseases, medication and, above all, the horse’s diet. The diet is particularly important because the food the horse eats also provides an essential source of nutrients for the bacteria in the microbiome. Highly fermentable fibre in particular is the most important ingredient on which the microbes survive. Ensuring horses receive a balanced and, above all, fibre-rich diet is there essential, as this directly affects their microbiome and therefore indirectly the horse’s overall health and wellbeing.

Gut and skin microbiome

There are different microbiomes in and on the body. While each microbiome has different functions, it is clear that the overarching theme is that microbes protect the horse from pathogens and diseases, regulate immunity and communicate with various systems in the body. A healthy microbiome therefore provides protection from the inside and outside.

Gut microbiome:

  • Helps the digestive system
  • Provides nutrients
  • Protects and supports immunity
  • Prevents infections and diseases
  • Regulates many systems in the body


Skin microbiome:

  • Protection and immunity
  • Defence against bacteria, chemicals and sun
  • Infection prevention
Health, as well as performance

While we know that a balanced microbiome is essential for health, there are still many questions to which we don’t yet have answers. In recent years, more and more research has been done to find out how the microbiome influences the horse’s body.  Each microbiome is unique, which also complicates matters. Research has shown that a disrupted microbiome is involved in several diseases, but did you know that it also affects performance? For example, research has shown that horses that digest more fibre and have a more diverse microbiome performed better.

Nutrition supports the microbiome

The microbiome is supported by basic and by functional nutrition. For clarity, we will explain the difference between the two.

Basic nutrition refers to the basic nutrients that the body needs to function properly and stay healthy. This includes macronutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins and fats, as well as micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. But fibre above all. Consider not only the amount of fibre, but also the variety of fibre. The main purpose of basic nutrition is to meet the body’s daily needs for growth, development, energy and the maintenance of bodily functions. Basic nutrients mainly come from the horse’s basic ration, i.e. the concentrates and roughage.

Functional nutritional ingredients are ingredients that are not essential for survival, but are known to provide additional support and benefits for health, well-being and performance. These foods often contain bioactive substances such as antioxidants, essential oils, herbs, probiotics or other useful components that positively impact health. Functional nutrients are mainly found in supplements. For example, prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics are all examples of functional ingredients.

What are prebiotics and probiotics?

Prebiotics (the fuel) are non-digestible nutrients that serve as food for the probiotics, i.e. the good bacteria, in the intestines. They stimulate growth and activity of these favourable bacteria. Therefore, prebiotics essentially indirectly help the favourable bacteria to do their work. By nourishing the body with prebiotics, the microbiome comes into balance, and you improve natural resistance. You can read more about them here.

Probiotics (the plant) are living micro-organisms, primarily bacteria and yeasts, which have a favourable effect on the body. Depending on the type of probiotics, they help with digestion, fighting unwanted germs, strengthening the immune system and maintaining a healthy balance of bacteria in the intestines. But probiotics can also have a beneficial effect on the skin. For example, topical products containing probiotics can promote healthy skin by reducing inflammation and maintaining a balanced microbial environment.

Finally, we also have postbiotics (the end product). A term you may not know yet. These are the metabolites, such as volatile fatty acids and enzymes, that are produced by the microorganisms as a result of fermentation). These are the end products with which the microbes exert their beneficial effect on the body. Postbiotics benefit the intestine locally in many ways, but are also absorbed and act as signalling molecules throughout the body. As a result, the microbes indirectly influence various systems in the body, which explains why a disrupted microbiome can have a major impact on general health and performance.

How do you recognise prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics on a label?

Now that you know the effect of the different ‘biotics’, it is also nice to be able to recognise them on the label of a product. We have compiled a list for this.


  • Mannan-oligosaccharides
  • Nucleotides
  • Pectins, beta-glucans (sources: beet pulp, yeast and cereals)
  • Parts of dead microbes, such as dead millet cell membranes



  • Bacteria such as lactobacillus, streptococcus and bacillus
  • Dried active yeast
  • Fungi, such as asparagus
  •  To make sure these are living microorganisms, look for the term “CFU” (colony forming units)



  • Fermentation products/metabolites. For example: Fermentation products of aspergillus Oryzae = enzymes
  • Butyric acid
  • Digestive enzymes
  • Yeast extracts, hydrolysed yeast
  • Often brand names of patented products
  • No CFUs (no living micro-organisms)
How do biotics work?

Prebiotics, such as fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), have a positive influence on the intestines of horses. They strengthen the population of beneficial microbes already present in the intestines. They increase both fibre fermentation and the production of beneficial metabolites.

Probiotics are very diverse and therefore complex. Two types are commonly used in the equine industry: yeast-based and bacteria-based products. Research has shown that supplementing with yeast-based probiotics can help reduce lactic acid, increase pH, promote the number of lactate-consuming bacteria and improve the digestion of fibre. Another study has shown that some probiotics may help lower blood lactate levels after exercise.

Postbiotics, such as yeast fermentation products, have also shown benefits, including reducing exercise-related mental and physiological stress parameters, soothing joint inflammation and protecting the microbiome during stress.

A special mention of the skin microbiome

Although the gut microbiome often takes centre stage, we should not underestimate the power of the skin microbiome. You previously read about the different functions of the skin microbiome, but we would like to delve into the skin a little further. Because the skin can also be supported with prebiotics and postbiotics. The skin is a mirror of intestinal health.

The horse’s skin is covered with microbes that provide important benefits and protection for the horse. Just like in the intestines, the microbes on the skin are the first line of defence, protecting the horse against harmful substances and germs with which it comes into contact every day. They are in continuous communication with the underlying immune cells, thus ensuring strong resistance. They also help maintain healthy skin and a shiny coat.  However, the skin microbiome can be influenced by different factors such as age, genetics, diseases, infections, nutrition, the environment and external products. When overly aggressive products are used or antibiotics are used excessively, this can lead to an unbalanced microbiome, which can not only lead to a dull coat and dry skin but also an increased susceptibility to skin conditions. Common skin problems in horses include bacterial infections, fungal infections, mucus, summer eczema, skin irritations, small wounds and allergic reactions. The use of topical antimicrobial or antifungal products can also damage the microbiome and cause bacterial resistance.

Cavalor prebiotics and probiotics – as advised by our experts

True health comes from within and we cannot emphasise the importance of fibre enough. Do you want to support your horse from within for better health, after illness or for improved performance? Then these are the products that have a positive influence on the microbiome. We also highlight a number of products that restore or boost the skin microbiome.

For the intestines

Cavalor FiberForce is a muesli that is high in fibre and contains long fibres for balanced intestinal function. With extrudates that are easily digestible and easy to absorb, and prebiotics and probiotics to support optimal intestinal function, the foundation for natural resistance. In addition, it contains various sources of fibre, which has a beneficial effect on the diversity of microbes. A more diverse microbiome is a healthier microbiome.  Therefore, for intestinal health, the diversity of fibres is just as important as the amount. 

Cavalor FiberForce Gastro is a high-fibre muesli for horses that have a sensitive stomach. It is high in fibre to promote saliva production and neutralise gastric acid. With extrudates that are easily digestible and easy to absorb, and prebiotics and probiotics to support optimal intestinal function, the foundation for natural resistance. Just like Fiberforce, Fiberforce Gastro also applies a very diverse fibre profile.

Cavalor Vitaflora contains prebiotics and probiotics to rebalance the microflora in the large intestine and stimulate health from within. A course of Cavalor Vitaflora is recommended after racing season, to give the intestines a health boost.

Cavalor Emergency 911 is a fast-acting supplement intended to support the digestive systems during transport, stressful moments or digestive problems. Cavalor Emergency 911 supports the microflora and the digestive system with prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics that support good gut bacteria. The product contains a broad spectrum of different microorganisms that help restore the intestinal flora to balance in a short time.

Cavalor Emergency 911 is a concentrated agent that is sprayed directly into the horse’s mouth. This product is used when the horse suffers from acute digestive problems or as a preventive measure. Cavalor Vitaflora, on the other hand, is more likely to be used daily on a long-term basis. It helps to keep the microbiome in balance.

You will also find prebiotics and probiotics in Cavalor Perfomix, Cavalor Superforce, Cavalor ProBreed, Cavalor Juniorix, Cavalor Endurix, Cavalor Sportmash Recup and Cavalor Strucomix.

For the skin

Cavalor Derma Wash is an innovative cleansing shampoo that offers a revolutionary approach to skin care for horses. Instead of simply disinfecting wounds and areas of skin irritation, the addition of prebiotics and postbiotics to Derma Wash actively promotes the natural skin restoration process by stimulating favourable bacteria. This results in natural skin regeneration.

Cavalor Derma Spray is a cleansing probiotic spray. The active prebiotics and probiotics in Cavalor Derma Spray strengthen the army of good bacteria on the skin and protect the skin flora, so that the natural immune system is supported.

Cavalor Dry Feet is a natural formula based on prebiotics and probiotics that provides the sole and radius with protective, good microflora that actively support the immunity of the hoof.

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