Digestive System

Taken From Horse Racing History

Understanding how the digestive system functions allows the owner/groom to feed the horse correctly. This enables the horse to make the best use of the food. If the horse is healthy inside he will be healthy on the outside and so be able to perform at his best.

  1. The lips gather the food avoiding foreign objects. (Inedible weed, stones and poisonous plants.) Horse's lips are their fingers; they cannot see the end of their nose, so they feel to avoid harmful objects.


    The incisor teeth cut off the grass, and the tongue helps to position the food into the mouth for mastication (grinding) by the molars at the back of the mouth. The molars reduce the food to small pieces and mix them with saliva in preparation for swallowing.

  1. The tongue manoeuvres the food to the back of the mouth to the pharynx (throat), where it enters the oesophagus (gullet) and is swept down the dilated tube by swift peristaltic waves.

  2. The food reaches the stomach, which is small and 'J' shaped, here digestive juices are added and the mixture starts to be broken down. It then passes on to the...

  3. Small intestine in which protein splitting enzymes are added to reduce the protein to amino acids which the colon can absorb. Hay, grass stems and other fibrous roughage are passed on into the...

  4. Caecum, which is a blind sac, the bacteria here breaks down the cellulose and converts it into fatty acids, which are absorbed and passed to the liver. Here they are converted into glucose for immediate use or stored for use later.

  5. The remaining substance is passed from the ceacum into the large colon, where more bacterial action takes place. Nutrients are passed through the colon wall into the blood stream.
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  6. The small colon is where further nutrients and water are extracted and the waste passes to the...

  7. Rectum, where the waste material is formed into balls of dung to be passed out through the anus at frequents intervals.


The digestive system work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it never stops. The horse is a browser, and needs to keep the system partially full and working all the time, however this does have disadvantages in that, small ponies tend to get fat on very little.

The Equine

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