Why is riding your horse on an empty stomach detrimental to their gut health?
The primary concern is the increased risk of gastric ulcers, particularly in the non-glandular portion of the stomach. Here's a breakdown of the key factors involved:
- Acid Splash: When a horse moves or exercises with an empty stomach, the acid in the glandular portion of the stomach can splash up into the non-glandular section. The non-glandular region, located above the glandular portion, is more susceptible to the corrosive effects of stomach acid.
- Ulcer Formation: The splashing of stomach acid onto the non-glandular portion can lead to irritation, inflammation, and ultimately the formation of gastric ulcers. The continuous exposure of the non-glandular stomach lining to acid can cause burns and erosions, compromising the horse's gut health.
- Acid Cap: Feeding forage, such as hay or pasture, before riding can help create an "acid cap" or a layer of fibre and forage that floats on top of the stomach contents. This cap acts as a protective barrier, reducing the likelihood of acid splashing up into the vulnerable non-glandular portion. By providing a source of fibre, you help maintain a more stable environment in the stomach.
- Importance of Fibre: Fibre and forage are crucial for maintaining optimal gut health in horses. The continuous chewing and ingestion of fibre stimulate saliva production, which acts as a natural buffer to neutralise stomach acid. Additionally, fibre promotes gut motility and helps prevent the accumulation of acid in one area of the stomach, reducing the risk of acid splashing.
- Prevention of Ulcers: Including an adequate amount of high-quality fibre in the horse's diet is essential for preventing ulcers. Regular access to forage, such as pasture or hay, ensures a steady intake of fibre, which helps protect the stomach lining and supports a healthy gut.
In summary, riding a horse on an empty stomach increases the risk of acid splashing into the non-glandular portion of the stomach, leading to gastric ulcers. Feeding forage before riding helps create an acid cap and provides fibre, which is crucial for maintaining gut health and preventing ulcer formation. It's important to prioritise a balanced diet that includes sufficient high-quality fibre to support your horse's overall well-being.