Now we are going to move on to another kind of stomach, the horse stomach. Interestingly, horse’s stomachs (like their hearts) are relatively small for the size of the animal, this limits the intake and storage of food. An average horse weighs 800 to 1,200 pounds. But their stomach capacity is only about four gallons, and works best when it contains two gallons. Also, their stomachs empty when they are about 2/3 full. Whether or not the stomach enzymes have completed their processing of the food. This inhibits full digestion and proper utilization of food. Continuous foraging or several small feedings per day are preferable to one or two large feedings.
The horse stomach consists of a non-glandular proximal region (saccuscecus), divided by a distinct border, the margoplicatus, from the glandular distal stomach. In the stomach, assorted acids and the enzyme pepsin break down food. Pepsin allows for the further breakdown of proteins into amino acid chains. Other enzymes include resin andlipase. Additionally, the stomach absorbs some water, as well as ions and lipid soluble compounds. The end product is food broken down into chyme. It then leaves the stomach through the pyloric valve, which controls the flow of food out of the stomach. Although not as complex as a cow stomach, horses stomachs serve them well. They do not weigh the horse down or hinder their agility, such as the cow stomach does. Although if a horse eats too much, it can get bloated like a cow. Ultimately, make sure your horse doesn’t eat too much too fast, and remember, if an animal’s gut is not healthy, the animal is not healthy.
English: A buckskin Dole Gudbrandsdal horse “Norlys” grazing. Français : Uncheval Dole-gudsbrandsdal à robe Isabelle broute. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Obviously, the most natural thing that a horse can consume is green grass. It is also the most nutritious thing a horse can ingest. Grass contains Silica, which promotes dental, hoof, and bone health. For most people, it is hard to find fresh green grass in the winter. These people can buy their horses hay. Although good hay can be quite nutritious, it still does not have as many health qualities as fresh grass. Some people supplement their horses with grains, oats being the traditional choice. Horses can also eat (good) corn but grass seed heads are the closest thing to what horses eat in the wild. When it comes to grains (or any other food) fresher is better. With all the processing going on nowadays grains can lose much of their nutritional value such as silica. You can also get your horse concentrate mixes. These mixes contain things like flax, beet pulp, molasses, bran, vitamins, and minerals, usually to make up the shortcomings in your horse’s diet such as in the winter when the horse is not getting much grass or to give the horse energy. It is also a good idea to give this mixture to pregnant mares to keep their health up so that their foals will most likely be healthy. You can also give your horse salts and minerals in the form of a salt block so that your horse can satisfy its cravings whenever it wants. Just for a little fun fact, reports have shown that horses will usually crave salt more in the summer than in the winter. So keep your horse happy, healthy, and content with a good diet and plenty of exercise.
Mounted skeleton of an Arabian horse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Regarding the Horse’s Axial Skeleton
The axial skeleton is the part of the horse’s endoskeleton* that contains the skull, vertebrae column, sternum, and ribs. If you are not familiar with the skull, ribs, ect, this is what they are composed of. The skull has 34 bones and 4 cavities, the cranial cavity, the orbital cavity, the nasal cavity, and the oral cavity. The cranial cavity encloses and protects the brain. While the Orbital cavity surrounds and protects the eye, the oral cavity is a passage to the respiratory system and the digestive system, and finally, the nasal cavity leads to the respiratory system and also includes the extensive pericardial sinus. Moving along, the vertebral column has about 54 bones including 7 cervical (neck) vertebrae, the atlas and axis which support and move the skull, 18-19 thoracic (the vertebrae that the spine is mostly made from) vertebrae, 5-6 lumbar (lower back) vertebrae, and 15-16 caudal (tail) vertebrae. Although, the number can be different according to different breeds of horses. The Arabian for example only has 5 lumbar vertebrae, and 16 cervical vertebrae. The sternum is located on the back of the pelvis and is the part that the backbone attaches to, usually having one or two of the lumbar vertebrae fused to it. And ultimately, the ribs, horses usually have 18 pairs of ribs but the Arabian has 17 pairs. The ribs are used to enclose and protect the vital organs such as the heart and lungs. So the next time you see a horse, think about all the interesting things I have told you today and make sure to check out next week’s blog about the horse’s Appendicular skeleton.
The frog is triangular in shape. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A horse’s heart has a more rounded shape that a human heart and is also smaller compared to the horse’s size than a human’s. The horse heart is composed of four sections, the left and right atria and the left and right ventricles. When a horse reaches maturity its heart usually weighs 7.5 lbs, but it can weigh as much as twice that amount. The horse heart grows until the horse reaches four years of age, but sometimes (usually because of a condition) the horse’s heart might grow a little more. There is a component on the horse’s hoof called a “frog”. Located in the digital cushion, the frog aids the heart by helping to pump the blood up the leg. How this works is when the horse walks, (trots, canters, gallops, ect.) the frog is compressed against the ground and shoots the blood up the leg. That is why a horse can go lame if it stands around all day and doesn’t get enough exercise. The heart is not strong enough to pump all the blood up the horse’s long legs, and consequently the horse will go lame. Usually in the back legs first as horses tend to move their front legs more. So make sure your horse gets enough exercise and ride often to get that frog pumping to ensure your horse’s health.
The sense of touch is an important but usually overlooked element in the lifestyle of a horse. Most people think that horses have a thick tough hide. But they really do not. Although tougher than the human epidermis, horse’s skin is rich in nerve endings. If you watch horses interacting, you will see lots of evidence that horses communicate using touch. Mares reassure their foals with a brush of the muzzle, friends scratch each others backs with their teeth, and sometimes horses just stand next to each other for comfort and/or support. When interacting with humans, a rub, pat, or massage in the right place will tell the horse that the human is his friend and sometimes the horse will respond. Which is cute when the horse nuzzles or sniffs you, but is not so cute if the horse bites or stomps you.
Horse’s eyes are very complex. Although they have a wider field of vision than humans do, horses cannot see very much detail and have a hard time seeing depth and sensing how far an object is from their bodies. Consequently horses also have many blind spots in which they cannot see at all. Directly behind and in front of a horse are the biggest blind spots. Which is why you should never walk up behind a horse unless you want to get kicked and why a horse might lift it’s head when you try to pet it’s muzzle. The horse does not want to get away from you, on the contrary it just wants to see you better! Most blind spots are determined by the shape of the Horse’s head. Horses with broad heads decrease the blind spot directly in front while a horse with a thinner head decreases the blind spots on either side. A horse’s eyes are very sensitive to movement which is why they get spooked so easily. This is because in the wild, horses have to be on guard all the time for mountain lions, bears, and wolves. Concerning horses and guarding, a horse’s night vision is superb. This is so that the horse can see any predators trying to sneak up on them at all times. Considering color, scientists have not proven whether horses see color or not, but most believe that horses see a few shades of green and/or blue. Horses may have great night vision and movement detection, but all the blind spots and lack of depth perception really makes me feel fortunate to have human eyesight.