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Never Exercise Your Horse on an Empty Stomach...Ever!

Provide your equine with forage prior to and during prolonged exercise. While trail riding, offer the opportunity to graze along the way.


Fiber creates a mat of sorts which prevents acid splashing in the stomach. The equine stomach produces acid 24 hours a day (16 gallons!) in preparation for constant uptake and begins to empty in as little as 15-20 minutes. Chewing activates saliva production (an alkaline substance rich in bicarbonate), which buffers gastric acidAn empty stomach allows unbuffered gastric acid to slosh and bathe its lining causing discomfort and may induce ulcers. (Learn more about how forage helps buffer gastric acid and prevent ulcers.)
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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 even more susceptible to damage. The upper portion has squamous epithelium – similar to our skin. Having fiber in the stomach is especially important during any physical activity/exercise and during transport which causes the splashing of acids. ​​​

Did You Know?

Transport is an extended isometric exercise for your horse - requiring your equine friend to constantly balance by engaging the abdominal muscles. Contraction of the abdominal muscles forces acidic gastric juices up into the non-glandular (upper) region of the equine stomach. Learn more about Why You Shouldn't Transport Horses On An Empty Stomach

How Slow Fed Free Choice Forage Assists in Colic Prevention

Slow feeding prior to exercise requires the horse to eat smaller amounts over a longer period of time. Chewing activates saliva production, which buffers gastric acid. 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.​

Additional Benefit of Free Choice Forage: Hydration

The equine cecum serves as a storage site for water and electrolytes if forage is present. Fiber consumption increases water consumption and the extra water is held in the cecum until absorption. During exercise when dehydration may be an issue, the cecum can help keep the horse hydrated and supply him with electrolytes that are lost in sweat. Bottom line - forage creates a reservoir of fluids in the cecum.

Take Home Message

Equines are designed to have access to forage 24/7. In nature, horses will voluntarily take breaks to sleep and rest for periods of time, typically no longer than an hour. Wild horses are not subjected to prolonged periods of time at the trot, canter and gallop. In domestication, involuntary periods of time without forage can be physically painful and mentally stressful. Mental and physical experiences are synonymous in that each has an influence on the other. ​Prevention of physical discomfort can help you and your beloved companion enjoy your rides and outings equally.      

Hay Pillow Product Suggestions

​The Hanging Hay Pillow® is a perfect solution for use inside and outside your horse trailer or while you are tacking up at home. The Manger Hay Pillow was designed to contain hay in a horse trailer manger (straight or slant load) alleviating waste - and enabling your equine easy access to “graze” during travel while keeping hay off the floor and out of your horse's eyes. The Standard and Mini Hay Pillow are an excellent choice for travel and home! Read our Hay Pillow Reviews.  

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Monique Warren, Hay Pillow Founder with the Hay Pillow Slow Feeder product line - standard ground hay pillow, mini hay pillow, hanging hay pillow & horse trailer manger hay pillow

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, digestive and hoof health articles to publications such as Equine Wellness, The Journal, The Naturally Healthy Horse, Natural Horse Magazine, Nicker News, The Horse's Hoof and Miniature Horse World Magazine. Equine nutrition and horses feet are her passions. She resides in Southern California.

Monique's Story


  • I wanted to share this very good article with vital info for horse owners/riders on a page I administer called The Non Ridden Equine New England. It is one of several non riding groups in the U.S. We were all pleasure riders/equestrians and some still ride but the glue is we go against industry standards of buying/selling, etc. We keep our horses in good care for life. Awhile ago I decided not to use pictures with riding photos as posts – only in the comment thread bc we don’t celebrate riding or use. I was trying to figure out how to copy the material and add a photo of a horse being worked on the ground- like free lungeing in a large ring, not a round pen and not with restraints on the horse. Would you be able to change the photo and send a link so I can publish it. I also wanted to share it with my non profit page BlixxHorses but definitely would not use this photo. Can you help ? Thank you

  • How safe is this with horses who have shoes?

    Jody Cracco
  • Love the boots in your promo picture. Do you know the brand/model?


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