- Horses are herbivores like cattle but are not ruminants.
- They cannot eat as quickly as ruminants that regurgitate their feed for further processing, hence spending most of their day grazing.
- They eat a wide range of pasture plants and weeds. They don’t like large quantities of lush legumes and need regular roughage.
- They digest their fibre in the colon, hence methane and carbon dioxide are passed through the anus.
- Horses have a very mobile top lip that allows close cropping of pasture. The cow uses its long tongue.
- Horses have upper and lower incisors so they can nip off grass very short like a well-mown lawn.
- When starved they’ll eat mud and old dung and will ring-bark trees.
- Don’t let them have access to silage bales, as they’ll chew the plastic wrap.
- The main digestive disorder is colic and it can be very hazardous for the horse and handler, especially if the horse gets down in a box. Get it outside and keep it walking hoping it will clear some wind. Get urgent veterinary help.
Written by: Dr Clive Dalton