Every horse owner must learn the hard way when it comes with dealing horses, especially in riding, training, or sending the horse out to a show.
Many people engage in the equine industry because simply they are passionate about horses. Of course, there’s a point in our lives where all we want to think about is spending a peaceful life with our horses. But reality will eventually set in – every horse owner will have to face different challenges and issues about their horses. We need to meet the demands of trainers, the barn help and many more.
One might think that owning a horse is just a matter of feeding it and giving it shelter, taking it out on rides, etc. There’s actually more to it – working and rearing horses will need ongoing assessment of the horse’s health status, behavior, level of performance, and much more. Most horse owners dread colic and other critical health issues, but other minor issues can also affect the overall performance of the horse.
There are also behavioral issues that we need to give attention to. At some point, owners will need to deal with a touchy or grumpy horse. Some would even bear the trouble of having a withdrawn, nervous horse or one that has developed barn vices. Often, the struggle takes place in training the horse just because it is not willing to obey or “listen” to your commands. All these issues are common to many horse owners that they tend to accept them and let it be.
This is no surprise, considering how these horses are being managed these days, but what if there is something that you can do to remedy these issues without compromising your convenience and the performance of your horse? This usually begins by having a better understanding of the equine digestion,and how it is affected by modern equine management practices, and how it can affect the horse and owner in general. Equine Hind Gut Ulcers v Stomach Ulcers what is it all about?
The Equine Hindgut
Gastric ulcers have been given alot of attention over the past years, with extensive research. People will then associate digestive problems with problems occurring in the stomach. If you wish to better understand the horse digestive system, you need to get a good grasp of what the hindgut is all about.
There is too much attention given to the stomach – which can be detrimental. The stomach comprises only less than 10% of the entire volume of equine digestive tract. When you look at the image of a horse anatomy, you will realize that it is rather small. It is located in the upper abdomen, protected by the ribs and spine and other equine organs. It is located far from the rider’s heel.
On the other hand, the hindgut is a big part of the digestive tract and has a significant role in the digestive health. It is an environment for bacteria necessary for the conversion of fiber to energy. At the same time, it is a source of health problems that horse owners usually deal with.
With experts doing research, it has been shown that ulcers in the hindgut can exist. As a matter of fact, they are quite common. Equine Hindgut Ulcers or colonic ulcers largely affect the performance of a horse, and are usually found to exist in horses that already have gastric ulcers.
The rise in the number of digestive problems in horses, both in the stomach and hindgut, did not just occur. These problems developed as human-horse relationship evolved; we feed and care for them in a different way because we are actually removing the horse from its natural lifestyle and habitat and created for them an environment that we think is best for them.
Old Vs. New Equine Management Practices
A horse left in its natural habitat will graze on grass for way more than 10 hours each day. They live in groups in a low-stress lifestyle. When it comes to its body, the horse adapts very well . The horse’s stomach is small and continues to produce gastric acid. With chewing of grass, the horse is introducing the food into its system gradually, and as this happens saliva is produced which helps buffer gastric acidity. The grass is fermented by microorganisms that reside in the cecum and colon (hindgut), in order to help distribute nutrients needed by the horse. This is the setting when a horse is placed in its natural habitat.
On the other hand, the modern horse, particularly performance horses, holds a different lifestyle. The energy derived from the grass and forage is not enough to compensate energy demands of their performance. To provide extra energy, the practice is to feed the horse with commercial feeds that have high energy ingredients. Usually, they are given in large amounts in long intervals. Not all owners have the time to actually feed the horse many times per day. They are also trained, exposed to stalling, trailering and periods of solitude.
Altogether these different modern practices can affect the internal system of a horse in many ways, which explains the various health, performance and personality problems that we encounter in the horse.
Problems of the Hindgut
When there is a disturbance in the delicate balance of beneficial and harmful bacteria in the hindgut, it will result in different digestive problems. When harmful bacteria overpower the good ones, harmful toxins will be produced and result to the increased acidity of the hindgut. The toxins are also capable of inflicting damage to tissues lining the hindgut forming ulcerations in the area. When the tissues get damaged, digestion and absorption of nutrients are affected, which in turn leads to weight problems.
When your horse has problems, you always turn to the veterinarian to have it diagnosed. The cycle does not stop there and it also means more expenses just to have your horse checked. Preventing the problem from happening in the first place is usually the best strategy.. Obviously, there is a need to change the way we manage our horse. Ideally, we need to care for the horse as if they are just living in their natural habitat. This means increasing periods of free grazing, limiting on commercial feeds, and minimizing stressful routines.
Supplementation also helps to support the digestive health of your horse. Probiotics are an example of digestive supplements that can increase the number of good bacteria that helps promote healthy digestive tract.
When working with a new diet plan, always involve your veterinarian. Veterinarians today also incorporate wellness programs and practices to help your horse live a healthy life.
When you have a healthy horse, expect that you will have a happy companion. With a healthy horse, you also reduce expenses . Keep the digestive tract in a healthy state and have a horse that will live life to the fullest.