O|3 Minute Tip of the Week
Overview of the Horse’s System
Meredith Kahn, MS
Equine Nutrition Consultant
O|3Animal Health, LLC.
The horse has a unique system as a non-ruminant herbivore. Otherwise known as a hindgut fermenter, the horse’s diet is plant-based and contains no animal protein. The digestive system can be simplified and divided into two main sections: the foregut and the hindgut. The foregut, the mouth to the end of the small intestine, uses biological catalysts called enzymes for digestion. These enzymes work by breaking down feedstuffs into smaller units that can be absorbed into the bloodstream at the small intestine. Starch or soluble carbohydrate is ideally digested and absorbed here in addition to protein and fat. The hindgut, the end of the small intestine through the large intestine, works differently, and, as such, is able to break down different feedstuffs. The products of digestion in the hindgut are also different than those produced and absorbed in the small intestine. Microbial populations inhabit the hindgut and are responsible for what is called fermentative digestion. The bacteria and protozoa that live in the hindgut can break down feedstuffs that pass through the foregut untouched, as the enzymes in the small intestine are unable to breakdown fiber or non-soluble carbohydrate.
For example, take a typical working horse diet. The majority of the diet should always consist of fiber in the form of hay or pasture grass. Additional energy is usually provided with grain, which is a soluble carbohydrate. While the fiber portion of the diet will pass through the foregut mostly untouched, the system will begin to break down soluble carbohydrate as early as the mouth.
FYI: did you know that fat is great option for increasing the energy of the working horse’s diet? Like soluble carbohydrate, fat is ideally digested and absorbed in the small intestine. Fat has 2.25 times the energy by weight as carbohydrate. Want to increase the energy content of your horse’s diet without adding more grain to the mix? Fat is a great way to increase the caloric density of the diet without increasing volume fed. Adding fat to the diet also provides a means to eliminate a portion of the soluble carbohydrate as a source of energy in the diet. Equine Omega Complete is a great option for fat supplementation, supplying a healthy source of fat that will not make your horse hot and will not overwhelm their system!
Stay tuned for more detailed information on the foregut and hindgut in our next O|3 Minute Tip of the Week!
About the Author: Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Meredith developed an immediate passion for horses when she began taking riding lessons at the age of five. She has been riding and showing Hunter Jumpers as a member of KMC Farm, currently located at Sonoma Horse Park, since 2003. After graduating from The University of San Francisco with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology, Meredith decided to further her education in a field where she could concentrate on helping horses. In 2014 she earned her Master’s degree in Animal Science, with an emphasis in equine nutrition, from Texas A&M University. Now back in California, as the Equine Nutrition Consultant for O|3 Animal Health, Meredith uses her education and extensive background as an equestrian to advise and educate clients about our products and assist with their horse’s nutritional needs. Meredith is excited to be a part of the wonderful team at O|3 Animal Health.
To contact Meredith with questions: firstname.lastname@example.org