A Standard Scale to Measure Equine Keeper Status and the Effect of Metabolic Tendency on Gut Microbiome Structure
Johnson, Alexa C. B.
Thriftiness in horses has been associated with more efficient nutrient harvesting in digestion, absorption and/or utilization, but the relative contribution of the gut microbiome to host metabolic tendency is not well understood. Recognizing the unreliability of owner reported assignment of keeper status, this research describes a novel tool for calculating whether a horse is an easy (EK) or hard (HK) keeper and then characterizes microbiome differences in these groups. The Equine Keeper Status Scale (EKSS) was developed and validated based on data gathered from 240 horses. Estimates of dietary energy intakes and requirements to achieve the optimal BCS score of 5 were used in EKSS assignments. Sixty percent of owners’ characterizations disagreed with EKSS identified keeper assignments. Equine fecal 16S rRNA profiles (n = 73) revealed differences in α and β diversities and taxa abundances based on EKSS assignments. EK communities had more Planctomycetes and fewer Euryarcheaota, Spirochaetes and Proteobacteria than HK indicating functional differences in nutrient harvesting between groups. Differences in the gut microbiomes of horses based on keeper assignment point to host/microbial interactions that may underlie some differences in metabolic tendency. The EKSS enables robust, repeatable determination of keeper status which can be used by researchers and horse owners.
Originally published in Animals. Version of record available via MDPI, at https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11071975.
metabolism , keeper status , equine , microbiome
Johnson, A.C.B.; Biddle, A.S. A Standard Scale to Measure Equine Keeper Status and the Effect of Metabolic Tendency on Gut Microbiome Structure. Animals 2021, 11, 1975. https://doi.org/10.3390/ ani11071975