The ancentral horse lived free, grazed pecking grass and walking for 18 hours a day. Unlike this, the modern horse spends much of its time in a small space, just walks or runs an hour a day (affecting their health due to sedentary lifestyle). It does not have access to pastures of different types that allow a balanced diet. If not handled properly the horse’s digestive system can suffer.
The organs of the digestive system of the horse are adapted to the way of life of their ancestors. It is essential to take care of the diet so that the sedentary lifestyle does not affect your digestive system creating problems of colic and other conditions
Capacity of the horse’s digestive system
The digestive system of the horse is divided into the foregut and hindgut digestive system. They contain the following organs:
- Foregut digestive system: It consists of teeth, tongue, mouth, esophagus, stomach and small intestine.
- Hindgut digestive system: It consists of the large intestine composed of the cecum, colon and rectum.
Among the animals of livestock, the horse is especially different in the proportion that the parts of the horse’s digestive system, foregut and hindgut, take care of the totality of the digestion. In ruminants (cattle, sheep and goats) the foregut digestive system is responsible for 85% to 90% of the total digestive capacity.
In the horse, the foregut digestive system only takes 35% to 40% of the total gastrointestinal capacity. Again these differences were compensated by the diversity of pastures that the horse ingested in the wild and the important mobility that it possessed to be free to walk and run. This is due to the small size of theforegut section of the horse’s digestive system with respect to other livestock.
What happens if precautions are not taken?
If the corresponding precautions are not taken, the feeding of the horse can alter the PH of the hindgut digestive system (large intestine). In case the descent is abrupt this causes important alterations in the population of microorganisms that inhabit the digestive system of the horse. This population is composed of anaerobic bacteria, fungi and protozoa that coexist together.
The decrease in pH causes the alteration of the population of microorganisms. This situation damage the hindgut digestive system of the horse and increasing the possibilities of colic. Colic is a condition that affects horses and the most common affections.
It can also produce a disease called subclinical acidosis which is caused by abrupt decrease in pH, causing a decrease in certain organisms critical for the digestion of horses and digestive system of the horse. Specifically, the affected microorganisms are Ruminococcus albus and Fibrobacter succinogenes, which are bacteria that digest fiber. These bacteria tend to disappear when the pH of the horse’s intestine falls below 6.0.
On the other hand, lactate producing and consuming bacteria increase dramatically in the digestive system of the horse. In your hindgut digestive system these are especially harmful noxious. For example Streptococcus bovis begins to produce more lactic acid when it is found at an acid PH producing:
• Loss of appetite
• Inflammation in the walls of the intestine causing discomfort to the animal
• Decrease in the absorption of nutrients and reducing the nutritional efficiency.
• Subclinical acidosis makes horses less able to handle metabolic crisis
• Horses become more susceptible to diarrhea, colic and laminitis
Nature is perfect
The understanding that the horse is an animal destined to graze and walk in free state is automatic when one notices all the care that must be taken when the horse is under an athlete regime. Procure a balanced diet that provides care against colic and subclinical acidosis to protect the digestive system of the horse is essential.
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