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The Equine Digestive System

Updated: Nov 30, 2022

This week I was invited back to Horses Inside Out HQ to assist in a filming day all about the Digestive System of the horse.

gillian higgins horses inside out arriving at Wavendon Grange, Horses Inside Out HQ and Gillian's home

As I arrived at Wavendon Grange I instantly spotted a big bay horse trotting around the outdoor turnout area.

I couldn’t remember Gillian mentioning any horses other than her grey sports horse Arty being involved in today’s filming……so I couldn’t wait to get up the drive and find out who this tall, dark and handsome guy was!

gillian higgins horses inside out painting process digestive system Anatomy of the lungs and digestive system, horses inside out, painted horse anatomy, equine by Gillian Higgins

As I reached the indoor class room area I found Gillian inside already well into the painting of the Digestive System onto Arty.

 Irish Sports Horse, Toby, turnout gillian higgins horses inside out

And I then got to find out that the horse I had seen was in fact a new addition to the Horses Inside Out team, an Irish Sports Horse named Toby.

And here he is for you all to meet!

After all the ‘new horse’ excitement and a welcome cup of tea I got down to helping with completing the painting on Arty just as videographer Matthew Roberts arrived to start the filming.

gillian higgins horses inside out equine digestive system, painted on horse, Horses Inside Out, Gillian Higgins, spine. lungs, capacity

The day’s agenda was a mixture of informative promotional video for Protexin Equine Premium and an educational video that will be made available to purchase very soon on the Horses Inside Out Academy.

Horses Inside Out Online Academy

Don’t forget it is free to join the academy, and there are tons of free resources available here as well as extra content that you can purchase.

gillian higgins horses inside out painted head molars
equine molars horse teeth

Gillian started her video lecture at the mouth of the horse, working her way along the digestive system explaining in detail about how it works and how we can help to look after our horse’s digestive systems as she went along.

Did you know that the horse is a trickle feeder and in his natural environment would eat for 16-20 hours a day…?

That’s a lot of chewing! And chewing is very important as it creates saliva, which is alkali and helps to neutralize acid.

Unlike the human stomach where the production of hydrochloric acid is stimulated by eating, horses produce a continuous flow of acid, even when the stomach is empty.

This is one of the reasons horses can be prone to stomach ulcers if left for prolonged periods without food.

gillian higgins horses inside out hindgut horse grazing
hindgut horse grazing

Something that was very interesting to me, was when Gillian began to explain how the horse’s body, and in particular their back, has evolved over millions of years in relation to their diet and the size and weight of their digestive system.

The digestive system of the modern day horse is extremely heavy at around 5% of the horse’s body weight when completely empty.

Then take into account the capacity of each of the parts of the digestive system and it really helps to put into perspective just what the horse is having to carry around!

In the video Gillian helps to demonstrate this visually with different sized labelled buckets, which is a great way to illustrate just how much the digestive system holds and how weighty it can be.

gillian higgins horses inside out capacity of the equine digestive system... small intestines, large colon

It was also great to see Arty moving on the lunge in walk, trot and canter to really get an idea of how the digestive system moves as the horse does, and how there is a relationship between breath and movement of the horse.

anatomy in motion, digestive system, stomach, trot, horses inside out
gillian higgins horses inside out horse hind gut - trot, anatomy

You will probably notice how Gillian has included the diaphragm and the lungs in the painting on Arty to help in demonstrating and explaining this.

The video also includes top tips on feeding for a healthy digestive system and how to reduce the risk of gastric ulceration in horses. All really useful as well as important information for any horse owner or trainer.

Of course I couldn’t write about a visit to Horses Inside Out HQ without including some Pumpernickle ‘spam’.

So here he is just being generally cute and cheeky, including following me into the tack room!

gillian higgins horses inside out Blue cross Pumpernickel, cheeky pony in the Horses Inside Out tack room!
gillian higgins horses inside out Pumpernickel, cheeky pony in the Horses Inside Out tack room!

And a the end of the day, after being such a fabulous demo horse, Arty had the chance to enjoy some fresh grass and have a good old roll in the pasture before being washed off.

gillian higgins horses inside out horse rolling

Another fabulous day with Gillian and the Horses Inside Out Team.

Keep your eye on your social media feeds for the Protexin Equine Premium informational videos and on the Horses Inside Out Academy for the release of the video lecture all about the Equine Digestive System.

And look out for more blogs from me coming soon!

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