Apr 29 , 2021
Avoiding medical issues by slow feeding
When horses graze or slow-feed on forage for most of the day, their stomach uses the digestive acids produced continuously on the hay. Forage spends a few hours in the stomach before moving on.
When the stomach is empty of forage, the acidic secretions can create painful gastric ulcers. The stomach's upper part is not protected unless there is hay or grass to block acid from splashing and developing ulcers.
As your horse eats concentrated feeds or ration balancers on an empty stomach, they spend relatively little time in the stomach and quickly end up in the hindgut. The microbes in the hindgut ingredients rapidly gobble up the ingredients in these "grain" meals.
These feasting microbes can change the pH of the horse's hindgut as they digest the feed. This creates a chain reaction of events, starting with a possible die-off of microbes. There can be excessive gas produced, causing colic. In extreme cases, the unbalanced microbes and pH change lead the intestinal lining to leak toxins into the bloodstream, creating laminitis.
The horse that binges after breaking into the feed room is the classic example of this chain of events.