A horse’s food journey is a long and literally winding road. From mouth to fecal ball expulsion, this road trip can last 36 to 72 hours and travel more than 100 feet and wrought with potential pitfalls:
Esophagus – The esophagus is approximately 5 feet long, made of skeletal and smooth muscle. Food enters the stomach through the esophagus at an angle which is why horse’s cannot vomit.
Stomach – As food enters the stomach, fermentation has already begun. Enzymes in the stomach reduce pH levels, slowing down the fermentation process.
Small Intestines – The job of the small intestines is to digest food and pass nutrients into the blood stream via absorption through the intestinal walls. During healthy digestion, food will spend 3-4 hours in the small intestines.
Cecum – The cecum is a giant vat capable of holding up to 9 gallons of foodstuffs. Its job is to finish the digestion process by breaking down forage. Food enters at the top of the cecum, digests, ferments and then emerges back out the top into the large colon.
Large Colon – Food matter will spend most of its time in the large colon, up to 65 hours. The colon is continually working to move matter through the colon along a series of pouches.
Small Colon – Fecal balls are formed here. Moisture in the food matter is absorbed back into the body leaving the undigested and undigestable food to form fecal balls.
Rectum – The undigested food then passes through the rectum and out the anus.