Alimentary carbohydrate overload is a significant cause of laminitis in horses and is correlated with drastic shifts in the composition of hindgut microbiota. Equine hindgut streptococcal species (EHSS), predominantly Streptococcus lutetiensis, have been shown to be the most common microorganisms culturable from the equine caecum prior to the onset of laminitis. However, the inherent biases of culture-based methods are estimated to preclude up to 70% of the normal caecal microbiota. The objective of this study was to evaluate bacterial population shifts occurring in the equine caecum throughout the course of oligofructose-induced laminitis using several culture-independent techniques and to correlate these with caecal lactate, volatile fatty acid and degrees of polymerization 3-7 fructo-oligosaccharide concentrations. Our data conclusively show that of the total microbiota present in the equine hindgut, the EHSS S. lutetiensis is the predominant microorganism that proliferates prior to the onset of laminitis, utilizing oligofructose to produce large quantities of lactate. Population shifts in lactobacilli and Escherichia coli subpopulations occur secondarily to the EHSS population shifts, thus confirming that lactobacilli and coliforms have no role in laminitis. A large, curved, Gram-negative rod previously observed during the early phases of laminitis induction was most closely related to the Anaerovibrio genus and most likely represents a new, yet to be cultured, genus and species. Correlation of fluorescence in situ hybridization and quantitative real-time PCR results provide evidence supporting the hypothesis that laminitis is associated with the death en masse and rapid cell lysis of EHSS. If EHSS are lysed, liberated cellular components may initiate laminitis.