Psyllium: Sand Clearance or Equine Superfood?

by Amanda Mills

It’s like those annoying word association exercises you had to do as a middle school student: “swing” is to “playground” as “chocolate chip” is to “cookie”. As horse people, ours has evolved into something along the lines of: “flunixin” is to “colic” as “psyllium” is to “sand clearance”. The association between psyllium and sand clearance is deeply ingrained in us. For seven days out of each month, we scoop the supplement of our choosing into our horse’s feed bucket and we feel good about keeping our equine companion free of digestive debris.

But why? While psyllium certainly does its part to keep our horse’s digestive tract clean and happy, the research is inconsistent in support of its effectiveness in this regard. However, there is strong support for incorporating a proven, high quality psyllium supplement into your horse’s diet with seemingly endless benefits. Equine veterinary medicine and nutrition is forever evolving and, as horse owners and caretakers, it’s our responsibility to take charge of our own education and ensure we’re as informed as possible.

However you gather your information, here are a few things you may not know about psyllium and a good jumping off point…superfood for thought, if you will.

Prevent and limit severity of hindgut ulcers?

Yes! Studies have shown that feeding a daily dose of psyllium can effectively limit the severity of hindgut ulcers and may aid in the prevention of their occurrence [1]. The thought is that psyllium essentially creates a barrier and limits the intestinal absorption of acids thus decreasing the incidence of ulceration.

Aid mucosal repair in horses with a history of colitis?

Yes! Multiple studies have evaluated the benefits of psyllium’s daily use in horses who struggle with right dorsal colitis. Colitis can cause a myriad of issues including degradation of the mucosal lining which can lead to even bigger issues. Essentially, intestinal bacteria ferment psyllium to create short-chain fatty acids which can aid in the healing of mucosal tissues [2].

Control blood glucose and insulin levels?

Yes! Research has shown that feeding psyllium to your horse can actually lower blood glucose and insulin levels [3]. So, for those of us struggling with Equine Metabolic Syndrome, Insulin Resistance, Cushings and many other common metabolic issues, the right psyllium product could be a great addition.

Prevent recurrent colic and diarrhea?

Yes! Despite researchers being tied 50/50 on whether psyllium actually aids in the removal of sand or not, most agree on one thing; its ability to optimize gut motility. When fed in its proper form, psyllium has the ability to support optimal digestive function. By coating the intestinal lining, it allows for the effective movement of feed and debris through the digestive tract while also promoting maximum absorption of nutrients and water.


[1] Sahagun AM, Vaquera J, Garcia JJ, Calle AP, Diez M, Fernandez N, Loro JF, Portilla HO, Sierra M. Study of the protective effect on intestinal mucosa of the hydrosoluble fiber Plantago ovata husk. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2015; 15: 298.

[2] Reuss SM. Updates in the Medical Management of Colic: Moving Beyond Mineral Oil. AAEP Proceedings 2014; 60: 213-218.

[3] Moreaux S, Nichols J, Bowman J, Hatfield P. Psyllium Lowers Blood Glucose and Insulin Concentrations in Horses. J Eq Vet Sci 2011; 31, 4: 160-165.