Home » SUCCEED Benefits » Equine Gut Health 101 » Healthy Digestion in Horses
Chewing triggers the production of saliva, which is alkaline and acts as a buffer for stomach acid.
The stomach is very small, roughly the size of a football, and feed only remains here for around 45 minutes. It has two regions: the lower glandular area and the upper squamous area. The glandular portion has a mucosal barrier that protects it from acid while the squamous region is unlined and unprotected. Acid is produced by proton pump cells, a “carpet” of cells found throughout the squamous region of the stomach.
The small intestine is a 70-foot long tube that absorbs these nutrients out of feed. Feed moves through at a rate of about one foot per minute. So, in less than two hours, feed has already moved through the foregut and into the hindgut.
Horses have a common bile duct about 8-10 inches into the small intestine which further assists in the breakdown of simple carbohydrates. It is activated by a small amount of acid in the feed contents.
It’s critical for simple carbohydrates from grain to be fully digested here in the foregut. In nature horses eat very little of this, but our horses have higher energy requirements and thus may require higher-calorie feeds. Grains must be fed in small amounts, or moderated through digestive support, in order to be fully digested in the foregut.
The bulk of digestion happens in the hindgut, which represents the majority of the horse’s digestive tract. Forage remains here for 2-3 days, where it is fermented by the microbiota and absorbed, providing most of a horse’s calories.
Fiber-fermenting bacteria release volatile fatty acids (VFAs), the primary energy source for horses. VFAs and other byproducts of fermentation are then absorbed through the intestinal walls and into the bloodstream. Up to 70 percent of a horse’s energy, or calories, come from this process.
Note that when undigested starch reaches the hindgut, bacteria digest it and convert it into lactic acid instead of VFAs. Lactic acid kills off the beneficial bacteria and allows the proliferation of more beneficial bacteria, upsetting the healthy balance of the microbiota. This can lead to a cascade of issues in the gut and elsewhere throughout the body.
Find out if your horse’s health and performance could benefit from added digestive support.
Where #SeriousHorsePeople learn about horse health and wellness and stay connected with SUCCEED Equine.
Submit Issues Below:
With the Challenge, you can test the waters to see if SUCCEED Digestive Conditioning Program is right for your horse. Try it risk-free for 60 days.