The digestive system of the horse is a long and complex system that ensures that a horse gets enough nutrients to different parts of his body. It is also a very delicate system because of its size and complex nature. With all the different twists and turns that are involved in the process of digestion it is easy for this process to go wrong, which could cause a horse to experience extreme discomfort or even the loss of its life.
The process of digestion begins with the grass. To survive a horse needs grass, and to grow grass need fertilization, which are provided by the waste products of the horse’s digestive tract. It is a continuous cycle, and, if one did not have the other to help it grow it would not prosper as well. So now the cycle begins with the picking up of food.
When a horse bends down to pick up a piece of food that he wants to eat he uses his teeth. Teeth are very important for a horse. A horse uses them to hold on to the food he is eating and uses his molars to grind up the food into many small pieces. Also while the horse is grinding up food the tongue is being used to hold food in place so that it does not slip to the front of his mouth or change positions when he does not want it to.
After the horse has adequately ground up his food he swallows and sends it down his esophagus. The esophagus is one of the simplest parts in the horse’s digestion. It is just a passageway from the mouth to the stomach that is composed of rings of muscles which contracts and relaxes to bring the food to the stomach.
At the bottom of the esophagus there is a muscle called the cardiac sphincter. This muscle keeps food inside of the horse’s stomach, so if a horse suddenly had to stop eating and run away from a predator the food would not come back out. This also means that extremely difficult for a horse to throw up, in fact, it is more likely for the stomach to rupture. The bad thing about not being able to throw up is that if a horse ate something that he should not have, it is difficult to get it out, and if it was a poisonous substance would require surgery.
Once the food has passed through the cardiac sphincter it is in the stomach. In relationship to the digestive system of a horse it can only hold ten percent of the volume as the rest of the system. The stomach only holds eight to twelve liters. Once in the stomach food is mixed with hydrochloric acid, which helps break down solid particles, and pepsin, and enzyme that helps in the digestion of proteins.
The speed of passage of food through the stomach is varied from fifteen minutes to twenty-four hours. The speed can alter due to how often the horse is fed. If the horse is used to being fed two meals a day the passage rate is quicker, than a horse that only gets once every couple days. The time it takes also depends on the horse’s health.
To get out of the stomach food must go through another sphincter, the pyloric sphincter. Once the...