Horse Vices?

15/12/11

The ‘vices’ I’ll be discussing today are of the equine kind. Specifically, wood chewing, wind sucking, wood licking etc. These are sometimes known as ‘equine oral sterrotypies’. They develop as a means to an end. And here’s news, that end isn’t to reduce boredom.

Those of you that read ‘Something to Digest‘ will know that horses naturally graze most of the day. Their stomachs secrete acid in a continuous fashion, but saliva is only secreted in response to chewing. In this way, the pH in the stomach of a horse at grass is kept under control by the buffering and flushing action of the saliva.

The problem comes when we cut down on the forage portion of the horses diet in favour of concentrates. The acidity in the stomach rises as it is not being capped by saliva production, which is presumably quite uncomfortable and can eventually lead to stomach ulcers.

And so the horse learns these ‘vices’ to reduce its discomfort, as it can mimic the effect of chewing grass on non edible substrates. Over time they become habit, and can be seen in a horse that has been out at grass for some time, but has been fed a high concentrate diet in the past.

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2 Responses to “Horse Vices?”

  1. equinelogic Says:

    hello, short and well done ,but it is interresting to mention the gall bladder.Absent in horses since their diet is practically fat free.There are still bile acids being produced by the liver but not stored.The fact that horses graze most of the day ,the bile acid is continuously secreted and there no need for storage,The high food intake created by man with 2 or 3 servings altered the digestive process and can cause intestinal disturbances.


    • Thanks for the comment, you are quite right about the absence of the gall bladder. I would include more detail but I’m trying to go for short and sweet to keep interest!


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