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Equine nutri­tion is the feed­ing of hors­es, ponies, mules, don­keys, and oth­er equines. Cor­rect and bal­anced nutri­tion is a crit­i­cal com­po­nent of prop­er horse care. Hors­es are non-rumi­nant her­bi­vores of a type known as a “hindgut fer­menter.” This means that hors­es have only one stom­ach, as do humans. How­ev­er, unlike humans, they also have to digest plant fiber (large­ly cel­lu­lose) that comes from grass and hay. There­fore, unlike rumi­nants, which digest fiber in plant mat­ter by use of a mul­ti-cham­bered stom­ach, hors­es use micro­bial fer­men­ta­tion in a part of the diges­tive sys­tem known as the cecum (or cae­cum) to break down the cel­lu­lose. In prac­ti­cal terms, hors­es pre­fer to eat small amounts of food steadi­ly through­out the day, as they do in nature when graz­ing on pas­ture. Although this is not always pos­si­ble with mod­ern sta­bling prac­tices and human sched­ules that favor feed­ing hors­es twice a day, it is impor­tant to remem­ber the under­ly­ing biol­o­gy of the ani­mal when deter­min­ing what to feed, how often, and in what quan­ti­ties. The diges­tive sys­tem of the horse is some­what del­i­cate. Hors­es are unable to regur­gi­tate food, except from the esoph­a­gus. Thus, if they overeat or eat some­thing poi­so­nous, vom­it­ing is not an option. They also have a long, com­plex large intes­tine and a bal­ance of ben­e­fi­cial microbes in their cecum that can be upset by rapid changes in feed. Because of these fac­tors, they are very sus­cep­ti­ble to col­ic, which is a lead­ing cause of death in hors­es. There­fore, hors­es require clean, high-qual­i­ty feed, pro­vid­ed at reg­u­lar inter­vals, and may become ill if sub­ject­ed to abrupt changes in their diets. Hors­es are also sen­si­tive to molds and tox­ins. For this rea­son, they must nev­er be fed con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed fer­mentable mate­ri­als such as lawn clip­pings. Fer­ment­ed silage or “hay­lage” is fed to hors­es in some places; how­ev­er, con­t­a­m­i­na­tion or fail­ure of the fer­men­ta­tion process that allows any mold or spoilage may be toxic.