Some horses paw or are aggressive at feeding time. This is more than likely due to frustration and/or pain. They are anxious to self-medicate; their stomach does not feel well due to the build-up of acid and/or painful gastric ulcers. Once they start chewing and eating they experience relief. Read on to find out why.
The equine stomach produces acid 24 hours a day in preparation for constant uptake and can begin to empty in as little as 15-20 minutes. The average 1,000 pound equine produces 16 gallons of gastric acid per day; the stomach only has a 3 gallon capacity. The lower part of the stomach, in addition to producing the acid, receives protection by also producing mucus. The upper, or non-glandular part (squamous epithelium – similar to our skin) has no protection and is even more susceptible to damage/ulcers.
Chewing activates saliva production (an alkaline substance), which buffers gastric acid. Under natural conditions with free-choice forage, the horse will produce approximately five gallons of saliva per day (that's allot of buffering!) and eventually “recycle” much of the water content via re-absorption prior to excretion.
Fiber present in the stomach also prevents the “splashing” of acids. Having fiber and saliva in the stomach is especially important while transporting or during any physical activity/ exercise which causes the splashing of acids.
Additionally, if your horse consumes hay too quickly, the particle size will not be reduced sufficiently or have a high enough saliva-to-forage ratio. Saliva plays a crucial role in digestion. Large amounts of dry matter lacking sufficient saliva can contribute to impaction colic. Slow feeding can improve the saliva to forage ratio significantly with increased chew time per pound.
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Hay Pillow slow feed hay bags - A Convenient Solution
Horses may also experience stress (which can cause ulcers) due to isolation - and not experiencing physical interaction with other horses! Slow feeding with multiple locations levels the playing field enabling your entire herd to eat and live together full time. Dominant members will keep the others moving as they claim various locations. The less dominant individuals will have alternate sources to eat from. This encourages movement and can decrease cortisol levels associated with stress from being physically separated from herd members.
Here’s to supporting a natural lifestyle for happier, healthier horses! Why Do Horses Chew On Things? may also be of interest.
Helpful How-to Resources for Slow Feeding
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About the Author:
Monique Warren invented the Hay Pillow® slow feeder and is the owner of Hay Pillow Inc.
Warren has been an equine guardian for over forty years and slow-feed advocate for over 10 years. She contributes equine nutrition and digestive and hoof health articles to publications such as Equine Wellness, The Journal, The Naturally Healthy Horse, Natural Horse Magazine, Nicker News, Horse Back Magazine, The Horse's Hoof, and Miniature Horse World Magazine. Equine nutrition and horses feet are her passions. She resides in Southern California.
8/15/2016 04:48:54 pm
We have Quarter horse and Paint horses . We show barrels and poles. We have had good results we the way we feed. Grain to the morning and evening, in the barn but our barn the way the stalls are with half walls and bars they can see each other good hay morning and evening also mixed hay to so they have something to eat on all the time ruined out through the day big field plus a round bale . They always have something to eat. Our horses look good and run great when asked to. Horses really do need something to eat on most of the day.
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