The Eating Habits of Horses

by | Aug 24, 2015

Natural Eating Habits for Horses

In the wild, horses roam, looking for food and cover distances from 1.5 to 3 miles each day. While they walk around, they take a mouthful of grass every now and then. The horse’s digestive system is designed for that. Horses cannot eat big quantities of food as their stomach can only hold as much as half a bucket of food.

The stomach contains acid. This acid improves the digestion and removes damaging materials. The acid is produced continuously. It is needed for digestion, but it is bad for the stomach wall. The acid is neutralized by certain ingredients in the saliva.

In the wild, the horse eats the whole day, so there is also a constant flow of saliva going to the stomach. That makes a perfect balance between the produced acid and the neutralizing saliva. In the wild the horse produces an impressive 40 to 60 liter of saliva a day!!!

Benefits of Slow Eating for Horses

A big difference between humans and horses is that a horse only produces saliva during chewing of food. We produce saliva the whole day long. That makes it very important for a horse to chew as long as possible. As a result, the saliva mixes in with the food and this makes the food more fluid. The fluid mass moves through the digestive tract a lot easier. Conclusion: extensive chewing means a good digestion and a reduced chance of digestive problems like colic.

How can you encourage a horse to chew for longer periods of time? The chewing time depends mainly on the structure of the food and the volume. Compare structure rich feed like hay or haylage with cubes. To eat 1 lb of hay, the horse has to chew for not less than 40 minutes, while 1 lb of cubes takes only 10 minutes. That means that the horse produces 3 to 4 times more saliva when it eats structure rich food.

Slow Feeding in the Stable

A horse that does not chew enough has only a little saliva and a lot of acid in the stomach. The acid attacks the stomach walls and this can cause stomach ulcers. Those ulcers hurt and the horse will try to produce saliva. One way to do that is sucking air. How can you help prevent this? Feed your horse from a ProPanel corner feeder with Stall Grazer technology. The ProPanel feeder will cause your horse to eat slowly over a long period of time, putting his head and teeth into the proper grazing position, as nature intended.