Equine Nutrition Affects Overall Health
Horses are able to get a large portion of their nutrition from good quality grass and hay. Small amounts of grain or supplements may be necessary to provide nutrients that are sometimes missing from different grasses. And how well – or not – horses absorb the nutrients from their feed affects several key factors of a horse’s health and performance ability:
For all of these reasons, it’s important to ensure that your horse is getting all it can from the food it eats.
How Nutrients are Digested and Absorbed
Absorbing Vitamins, Fat, and Protein
It’s fairly easy for horses to digest fat, protein, and vitamins, all of which happens in the small intestine. Proteins are broken down into their smaller components called amino acids, and then absorbed into the bloodstream along with these other nutrients.
Digesting Sugars: Easy
Horses obtain sugar from both pasture grasses and from processed or hard feed. The simple sugars in both are readily digestible and are primarily digested in the small intestine.
Digesting Starches: Hard
Starch is more structurally complex than sugar, making it more difficult for the horse to digest. A major component of cereal grains, starch makes up 50% of oats and around 70% of corn.
Horses can digest some types of starches more readily than others. And depending on factors such as the type of starch, transit time through the small intestine, and availability of starch-digesting enzymes, some starch may reach the hindgut undigested.
Fermenting Fiber for Energy
Nutrients are absorbed in the span of a few hours as they pass through the small intestine. Everything that remains then makes its way to the hindgut where it ferments for as long as 2-3 days.
At this point, all that should be left is the fiber from forage. It ferments in the cecum and is absorbed in the colon, providing the horse’s primary source of energy.
Supporting Nutrient Absorption With SUCCEED®
Lifestyle factors common to modern performance horses can affect a horse’s GI function, including the digestion and absorption of nutrients. You want to ensure that your horse is absorbing enough fat and protein to maintain his weight. The horse might be lethargic and lazy because it’s not getting enough of the all-important VFAs produced by fermenting fiber. Or, energy-providing grains are passing through the small intestines too quickly to be fully digested and absorbed.