Stomach ulcers, irritations and lesions are caused when excess gastric acid cannot be buffered sufficiently and attacks the stomach lining, causes lasting damage. It is therefore extremely important that one observe a few important basic rules when feeding horses with sensitive stomachs:
1. Sufficient high-quality roughage
2. Long feeding times, and short periods between feeding
3. First roughage, then concentrated feed
4. Feed and mineral supplements provided according to the horse’s requirements
5. No more concentrated feed than necessary
6. Consistence in feeding times
7. Support stomach-sensitive horses’ needs with supplements and/or supplementary feeds.
Your horse needs high-quality roughage to be able to buffer acid in the stomach. This should be green, smell good and be rich in structure, but not woody. The structure, i.e. crude fibre, makes the horse have to chew and produce saliva. This has an alkaline pH value which will prevent hyperacidity in the stomach. Since the horse produces saliva only when it eats, in contrast to gastric acid, which is produced constantly, feeding times should be made to last as long as possible. Avoid intervals of more than four hours between feeding.
The horse should not be given more concentrated feed than it needs, and this should be divided into as many portions as possible throughout the day. Digestion of concentrated feed leads to the formation of acid. It is therefore important that concentrated feed only be offered after hay, so that the additional acid in the stomach can be better buffered by the already-present saliva.
This will also cause the concentrated feed to be eaten more slowly, which produces even more saliva, which in turn helps the horse digest the concentrated feed. Care should be taken to ensure that the horse is not given more concentrated feed than it needs, since equine gastrointestinal tracts are not designed to digest larger amounts of concentrated feed. Therefore, provide only the amount of concentrated feed necessary.
Keep to scheduled feeding times
The horse's feed should be supplemented with targeted mineral feeds as required in order to prevent nutrient deficiencies and their possible negative consequences. Horses become accustomed to consistently-kept feeding times. Delayed feeding may cause a stressful reaction, increasing the production of stomach acid which may result in an irritation of the stomach lining since this cannot be buffered by the intake of roughage.
If the horse is known to have a sensitive stomach or to have acute digestion problems, its stomach – or the entire digestive tract – should be given some help. It is advisable to offer hay in close-meshed hay nets so that the horse always has something to chew and is busy eating the hay over a longer period, which lengthens feeding times and promotes saliva production.