The digestive system of a horse works very differently from that of a human. Food passes quickly through a relatively small stomach designed to take in frequent meals throughout the course of the day. In the small intestine, enzymes digest starch, protein and fat.

The “hindgut” of the horse is made up of the cecum (a pouch between the small and large intestine), the small intestine, the large intestine and the rectum. The hindgut contains a beneficial bacteria population that breaks down fibrous plant material into energy that the horse can use as fuel.

Horses cannot vomit and are therefore more prone to digestive disruptions, such as choke and colic, than other animals.

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This article originally appeared in the 2010 issue of Horses USA. Click here to purchase a copy.

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Holly Caccamise has been with Horse Illustrated and Young Rider since 2007, and in August 2019, she took over as head editor. She’s been instrumental in the production of both magazines and helped Horse Illustrated win a 2018 American Horse Publications Media Award in the General Excellence Self-Supported Publication (circulation 15,000 and over) category. Before getting involved in the editorial side of print media, she worked as an award-winning ad copywriter for Thoroughbred Times magazine. Caccamise has her MS in Animal Science from the University of Kentucky, where she studied equine nutrition and exercise physiology, and her Bachelor’s from UCLA in Biology. Caccamise has also worked as a research assistant, horse camp counselor teaching riding and vaulting, and as a top-level show groom in the eventing world, where she continues to compete her horse, Artie, at the lower levels.


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