Experimental and epidemiological evidence suggests that consumption of hydrolyzable carbohydrate, hCHO (grain), by horses is an important risk factor for colic, a common cause of equine mortality. It is unknown whether the small intestinal capacity to digest hCHO and/or to absorb monosaccharides is limiting, or even if horses can adapt to increased carbohydrate load. We investigated changes in the brush-border membrane carbohydrate digestive enzymes and glucose absorptive capacity of horse small intestine in response to increased hCHO. Expression of the Na(+)/glucose co-transporter, SGLT1, was assessed by Western blotting, immunohistochemistry, Northern blotting, QPCR, and Na(+)-dependent D-glucose transport. Glucose transport rates, SGLT1 protein, and mRNA expression were all 2-fold higher in the jejunum and 3- to 5-fold higher in the ileum of horses maintained on a hCHO-enriched diet compared to pasture forage. Activity of the disaccharidases was unaltered by diet. In a well-controlled study, we determined SGLT1 expression in the duodenal and ileal biopsies of horses switched, gradually over a 2-month period, from low (<1.0 g/kg bwt/day) to high hCHO (6.0 g/kg bwt/day) diets of known composition. We show that SGLT1 expression is enhanced, with time, 2-fold in the duodenum and 3.3-fold in the ileum. The study has important implications for dietary management of the horse.