These situations may come from different sources. If my horse is stressed, if he’s not eating – for whatever reason – then I will be empty! And that is not ideal. I cannot turn off acid production at will and if there is no feed in my stomach there is nothing to soak it up. This disrupts my stomach microbes, and the more acid-loving ones dominate, and this can promote pathogens that can damage me. Add on stress, then my mucus may dry up, allowing those pathogens access to that nice pink surface!
And that’s not all. Some feeds, especially those hard feeds that are rich in starch, can cause further problems. They arrive poorly chewed and buffered, and my acid doesn’t absorb onto it. Worse, those acid loving microbes digest the starch and produce more acid, encouraging more .... and so on! Not only does this mean I’m sending a more acidic mix into the intestine, but there is excess acid sloshing around me. Exercise, an empty stomach and stress all mean exposure of my walls to acid burn which can lead to ulceration and even infection; they call it EGUS. And it hurts! Furthermore, starchy feeds will increase insulin release and one of insulin’s jobs is to impact acid secretion and so it goes on! Although my mucus mainly protects me in my glandular region, there can be damage to other areas of me, and even further down the gut. I can end up like this:
So how can I make sure this doesn’t happen? I am designed to process a continuous flow of well-chewed, moist feed so it leaves me well conditioned. To keep me safe, this needs to happen all the time. If I’m to process starchy feeds, it needs to be done little and often, alongside forage, so I can cope. If there is to be exercise, don’t stop feeding me, but give me a little forage to work on and to keep the acid soaked in. If there is stress – transport, scary things or behavioural issues, try keeping my horse calm; this keeps me calm and I can carry on producing the protective mucus. If I get thrown out of kilter, not only do I suffer, but the whole of the intestine does, too!
In short, treat me right and I will treat the whole gut right!
Learn about the high fibre British Horse Feeds products; Speedi-Beet