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Horse feeding and digestion


  • Horses are herbivores like cattle but are not ruminants.
  • But they cannot eat as quickly as ruminants that regurgitate their feed for further processing, hence spend most of their day grazing.
  • They eat a wide range of pasture plants and weeds. They don’t like large quantities of lush legumes and need regular roughage.
  • They digest their fibre in the colon, hence methane and carbon dioxide are passed through the anus.
  • Horses have a very mobile top lip that allows close cropping of pasture. The cow uses it’s long tongue.
  • Horses have upper and lower incisors so they can nip off grass very short like a well-mown lawn.
  • When starved they’ll eat mud and old dung and will ring-bark trees.
  • Don’t let them have access to silage bales, as they’ll chew the plastic wrap.
  • The main digestive disorder is colic and it can be very hazardous for the horse and handler, especially if the horse gets down in a box. Get it outside and keep it walking hoping it will clear some wind. Get urgent veterinary help.
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