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Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition

   Welcome to my forum. 

Here you will find more than 6 years of questions and my answers. It is searchable and offers a great deal of information. 

Currently, I am discontinuing new questions. This may change in the future, but in the meantime, please know that It has been a true pleasure serving you. 

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All the best,

 Dr. Getty 


Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition
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Just how big.....stomach/meals

Just how big is a horse's stomach? I did find one place on the net that tells, but only one. Just curious..... So just HOW much can a horses stomach and cecum hold?

Also, what is too big of a meal (scientifically) for a horse and what is too small of a meal. I mean for people, a four course meal is a big meal yet a snadiwch is a small meal. I know everything says to feed a horse smaller meals for better digestion. So would that be....1 pound? 4 pounds? 10 pounds? This question is for each feeding....if you fed twice a day. Also, my horses are on grass hay 24/7 if not on pasture 24/7. Please enlighten me.

Where are you from? Florida

How did you locate this forum? friend

Re: Just how big.....stomach/meals

Hi “Voodoofarm”? Name?

A horse's stomach is really quite small, compared to the rest of the digestive track. Its actually capacity is 8 to 19 quarts, but don’t let that fool you. It can only hold about 5 quarts because it starts to empty when it is only 2/3 full. This is a safety mechanism to prevent the stomach from rupturing, since as you know, horses cannot vomit.

So, to be safe a meal should not exceed 3 to 3 ½ pounds (which, in quarts is about 1 ½ to 2 quarts, or 3 pints). Anything larger than this can cause food to enter the small intestine so rapidly that there is a higher likelihood that the food will be undigested. If it reaches the cecum undigested, the bacterial flora get to ferment it. With hay, this is what you would expect. But, if you feed a meal made of grain, and this grain reaches the cecum, the fermentation can cause the bacteria to die (due to the lactic acid formation), which can lead to laminitis.

You can safely feed hay all day long!

Other capacities: the small intestine can hold 16 quarts, and the cecum holds 28 to 36 quarts.

Thanks for writing!

Dr. Getty