Looking for a natural way to improve your horse’s digestion? Acupressure is a great way to achieve optimal movement and balance in his GI tract.
The quality of your horse’s feed and water is extremely important, but the key to healthy equine digestion is the motility of the gastrointestinal system. The enteric nervous system, often referred to as the “brain of the gut”, is responsible for the horse’s entire gastrointestinal function, from the first nibble and bite to the excretion of manure and urine.
A closer look a digestion
Horse caretakers face many challenges when it comes to feeding. Replicating the horse’s natural feeding regimen is the goal, but achieving it is another thing. Horses are designed to graze fairly consistently so that ingested food substances, called “ingesta”, make their way relatively slowly through the complex gastrointestinal tract.
The second a horse take a bite of grass, the first stage of digestion – known as peristalsis – begins. Peristalsis is a strong muscular process that propels the ingesta up through the horse’s long neck. A pattern of muscular contractions and relaxation persists rhythmically and systematically to move the ingesta through the horse’s esophagus. The fermentation (i.e., the chemical breakdown of rough forage into absorbable nutrients) of the ingesta is acted upon by enzymes in the horse’s mouth and esophagus.
The ingesta passes into the horse’s small stomach where the proteins and sugars are extracted and absorbed. It then continues on to the small intestine and the different segments of the large intestine, receiving further fermentation and making it possible for the horse to absorb essential nutrients.
The enteric nervous system
The enteric nervous system is part of the autonomic nervous system and is in charge of directing and coordinating the movement of ingesta through the horse’s body. The enteric nervous system is composed of two networks of neurons within the walls of the tubular digestive tract.
The peristaltic process is driven by the enteric nervous system and the powerful muscles embedded in the gastrointestinal tract.
Optimal digestion requires movement
For the equine digestive process to perform optimally, the motility of ingesta through the gastrointestinal tract is critical. Any disruption in propulsion and fermentation during digestion activity, such as stagnation or insufficient ingesta, can lead to colic, choke, gastric ulcers, and obsessive behaviors including cribbing, weaving, wood-chewing, etc.
Chinese Medicine and acupressure
For centuries, Chinese Medicine has proven to enhance equine digestive motility and nutrient absorption. Acupressure is based on Chinese medicine and utilizes specific acupressure points, also called “acupoints”, to promote digestion.
There’s an old Chinese phrase: “If stomach is good, the prognosis is good. If stomach is not good, the prognosis is not good.” How true that is with horses! This phrase is not referring to just the stomach, but to the whole process of digestion. By stimulating the acupoints shown in the chart above every four or five days, you can help your horse’s enteric nervous system promote digestive motility and nutrient absorption.