The horse’s digestive system is to say the least, complex. It is designed for the horse to have access to free-range-grazing. Roaming the wilds, freely eating small amounts of food all day and even eating through the night under the stars they continue to eat. What man has done is domesticated the horse from the wilds and restricted access to its nature environment – resulting in digestive problems. Added to this is we restrict the horses movement, or at worst increase the horses workload but with no additional food.
We then confine him to a stall, offer little to no exercise, minimal access to continually grazing, instead, we take the easy way out and feed a large quantity of food, possibly only once-a-day.
What we have done is upset the horses digestive system leading to serious health issues.
Through a better understanding of how the horses digestive system works, the horse owner can manage diet, nutrition avoiding health problems and get the best from their horse.
Equine Digestive System (EDS)
EDS is of 2 parts
Foregut – esophagus, stomach, and small intestine
- Stomach– The stomach of the horse contains about 10% of the capacity of the small intestine (compared with 70% for cows). Therefore, horses cannot handle large amounts of feed and must eat frequent, small portions.
- Esophagus– A muscular tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach. In the horse, food only moves one way down this tube; horses cannot throw up.
- Squamous mucosa– Covers approximately one-third of the equine stomach and is void of glands. The texture of the healthy cells in this area feel like the skin on the back of your hand. Ulcers most regularly occur in this region near the margo plicatus curvature.
- Margo plicatus– The folded ridge of the mucous membrane between the stomach’s nonglandular portion and the glandular portion.
- Glandular mucosa– Covers the remaining two-thirds of the stomach and contains the acid-producing glands. Ulcers are less prevalent here (but still possible) due to having more protective factors.
- Pylorus– Lower portion of the stomach that leads into the small intestine.
- Duodenum– Uppermost part of the small intestine that plays an important role in the digestive function. Carries partially digested food out from the stomach.
- Acid-stimulating receptors– Trigger an “acid pump” to secrete acid. Sensitive to diet and stress