Equine Digestion Demystified

Your horse, a creature designed for constant grazing, possesses a stomach that is in perpetual acid production to facilitate digestion. In a natural environment, where horses graze and chew throughout the day, stomach acid is buffered by forage and saliva, safeguarding the delicate stomach lining. However, contemporary horse keeping and feeding practices often deviate from these natural behaviors, potentially leading to significant issues for equine stomachs.

How the Digestive System Operates

The stomach is divided into two primary regions, the glandular mucosa, covering the lower two-thirds, houses glands responsible for continuous acid production. This region also generates mucus and bicarbonate, serving as protective measures against acid exposure. On the other hand, the more vulnerable non-glandular mucosa covers the upper third of the stomach. This area, where stomach contents are typically mixed with the buffering effects of food and saliva, lacks the natural protection afforded by the glandular mucosa.

Common Issues Arising

Accumulation of Excess Acid: Excessive acid production can accumulate in the unprotected non-glandular mucosa, leading to the erosion of the stomach lining and the development of painful sores.

Stomach Irritation During Exercise: Particularly when the stomach is empty, acid may splash around during exercise, exacerbating irritation to the stomach lining and aggravating existing sore spots.

Impact of Large Grain Meals: The ingestion of substantial grain meals can elevate acid levels in the stomach, consequently heightening the risk of gastric problems for your horse.

Modern Challenges to Natural Equine Habits: In the domesticated setting, horses often face challenges that disrupt their natural grazing patterns. Limited access to forage throughout the day, reliance on concentrated grain meals, and the stress of confinement can contribute to an imbalance in stomach acid regulation.

Mitigating the Risks

Frequent Forage Access: Facilitate an environment that allows your horse to graze or have access to forage regularly. This helps mimic the natural feeding behavior that buffers stomach acid and supports digestive health.

Balanced Exercise and Feeding: Coordinate exercise routines and feeding schedules to avoid situations where the stomach is empty during physical activity, minimizing the risk of acid splashing and irritation.

Careful Grain Management: Be mindful of grain portions, opting for smaller, more frequent meals rather than large, infrequent servings. This practice can help regulate stomach acid levels and reduce the likelihood of gastric issues.

Understanding the intricacies of your horse’s digestive system and its susceptibility to gastric problems is paramount for responsible horsekeeping. By aligning feeding practices with the horse’s natural behaviors and implementing thoughtful management strategies, you can contribute to the overall well-being of your equine companion and mitigate the risks associated with stomach-related issues.

By Staff writer