Gut Feelings - By Karen Briggs

Recent focus on equine digestive health aims to get horses as healthy on the inside as they look on the outside

A dressage horse in motion embodies elegance,power, and grace. At least that’s what we strivefor. But it can be difficult for a horse to be spectacular on the outside if he feels lousy on the inside—and that’s the harsh reality for many performance horses, according to research findings.

Millions of years of evolution prepared the horse for a nomadic, grazing lifestyle, but it didn’t equip his digestive system to cope with the trappings of domesticity. When a horse is confi ned to a stall for many hours a day, eating concentrated rations at infrequent intervals, his gastrointestinal tract may balk. Gastric ulcers and the digestive upsets we call colic may result; and the further a horse’s lifestyle from what nature intended—say, with little to no turnout and lots of traveling and showing—the higher his level of risk. Human dancers may suffer for their art, but horses shouldn’t have to. How can we address the digestive health of our beloved dance partners, prevent the grouchiness and performance issues that gastric ulcers can cause, and head potentially dangerous colics off at the pass? Let’s start with a brief tour of the equine digestive system, because understanding how it functions is the first step in helping to keep it happy.

Touring the Tummy

To start, let’s go on a brief trip through the gastrointestinal tract. From the mouth, where grinding teeth and swishing saliva start to break up food particles; to the stomach, where everything gets further liquefied, the feed your horse ingests is pushed on to the small intestine, a convoluted tube suspended from the loin region by a fan-shaped membrane called the mesentery. The small intestine is the primary site for protein digestion and the absorption of amino acids. Grains are primarily processed here by enzymes, which break down complex sugars and starches to simpler forms that are absorbed through the gut walls. Fats are also digested and absorbed here, as are the fat-soluble vitamins A, D,
E, and K; calcium; some phosphorus; and the B vitamins.

The last portion of the small intestine, the ileum, leads to the hindgut, which comprises the cecum, the large (aka ascending) colon, the small colon, the rectum, and the anus. Here, digestion is largely microbial rather than enzymatic.
Tough plant fibres pass through the stomach and small intestine unaffected by enzymes, but when they hit the “fermentation vat” of the cecum, they’re broken down within about five hours. Trillions of symbiotic bacteria, often called
gut microflora, unravel plant fibres into simpler compounds called volatile fatty acids (VFAs), which can be absorbed through the gut wall. These bacteria are an essential part of the digestive process, and keeping their populations healthy
and happy is crucial.

From the cecum, the digesta moves on to the large colon, where fermentation continues. Finally, the leftovers move to the small colon, which reclaims excess moisture from the remaining material. By the time the digesta leaves the small
colon it has become solid again and has been molded into fecal balls. Some 36 to 72 hours after it began its journey, the waste material from a horse’s meal is expelled as manure.

Please click the below link to read the full article

Want to know more?
Contact us by filling in the form

Visit our Online Shop

Take a peek at some of our Quality Products

© Copyright 2013, Stride Distributors, All Rights Reserved, Website developed and maintained by Starbright and Mixi P Graphic Designs