New research indicates that the traditionally held understanding that fructans are broken down exclusively in the hindgut is not entirely accurate.

Fructans — chains of sugar molecules — are stored energy sources in plants. Their fermentation creates an energy source in horses, but too much fructan can lead to laminitis or hindgut acidosis, according to Kentucky Equine Research (KER).

New research published in the Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition, indicates that fructan fermentation may begin in the stomach, depending on the type of forage.

“By enhancing the knowledge of how different feedstuffs are broken down, digested and fermented, horses can be fed to not only prevent disease but also maximize performance,” according to Catherine Whitehouse, a nutrition advisor for KER.

This research indicates that there is more to learn. For some horses, the findings could be particularly significant.

“Some horses are extremely sensitive to the fructans in forages, causing risky shifts in the pH of the hindgut,” says Whitehouse. “A time-released hindgut buffer such as EquiShure helps maintain a stable pH in the cecum and colon to maximize fermentation and minimize the development of life-threatening laminitis.”

“Maintaining a fairly consistent pH in the hindgut is especially important for horses that have known metabolic problems.”