The horse’s digestive system is complex. It is designed for the horse to have access to free-range-grazing.
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
The Equine Digestive System is made up of two main parts.
- Foregut – esophagus, stomach, and small intestine
- Hindgut – cecum, large colon, and small colon
- 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
Read our Three Part Series on the Equine Digestive System
- Part One: The mouth and oesophagus
- Part Two: The stomach and small intestine
- Part Three: The hindgut