The Horse's Digestive System

To understand how best to feed your horse and provide them with nutrition, it is very important to understand the digestive system of horses. Making sure you know what goes on inside a horse when you feed them is not only interesting but also part of being a responsible horse owner.

Firstly, horses are herbivores. This means that they are meant to eat plants. They have evolved to become creatures that eat little and often. In fact, in the wild, they can travel long distances each day or week to find the nutrition they are after.

So it is important to remember that a horse's digestive system is designed to work with small amounts of food regularly, with little or no changes to their diet.

Chewing and swallowing

Firstly the horse picks up food with their lips. Their front incisor teeth cut the grass and then it is chewed by their molar and premolar teeth. The food is mixed with saliva during chewing and then it is swallowed. The esophagus then carries the food to their stomach.

It is important to remember that horses have a small stomach relative to their size. No matter how big and strong your horse looks, his or her digestive system is delicate.

Now to the stomach and small intestine...

The horse's food is mixed with more enzymnes and acidic liquids in the stomach. This helps break down the food. The food will then pass to the small intestine where it is broken down further by liquids secreted by the pancreas and liver. Finally it passes to the large intestine where the horse extracts water from the food and fibre is broken down.

Keeping your horse's digestive system in healthy and in tip-top condition is vitally important.

This can be achieved by providing them with plenty of fresh water, good quality food and roughage and good exercise. For more information, follow our horse feeding tips.