Provide your equine with forage prior to and during prolonged exercise. While trail riding, offer the opportunity to graze along the way. Why? Acid splashing in the stomach is uncomfortable and may induce ulcers. The equine stomach produces acid 24 hours a day (14-16 gallons!) in preparation for constant uptake and can empty in as little as 15-20 minutes. Chewing activates saliva (an alkaline substance) production, which buffers gastric acid.
Fiber present in the stomach prevents the splashing of acids. The lower part of the stomach, in addition to producing the acid, receives protection by also producing mucus. The upper, or non-glandular part, has no protection and thus is far more susceptible to damage. The upper portion has squamous epithelium – similar in a way, to our skin. Having fiber in the stomach is especially important during any physical activity/ exercise causing the splashing of acids.
Slow feeding prior to excercise requires the horse to eat smaller amounts over a longer period of time. Chewing activates saliva production. Increased chew time yields higher saliva quantities creating an overall higher saliva to forage ratio and further reduction of particle size. This also decreases the risk of impaction colic associated with exercise.
Helpful How-to Resources for Slow Feeding
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Monique Warren is the owner of Hay Pillow Inc.