Skip to Navigation | Skip to Content
the great outdoors - explore

Horse's Health & Performance

 The horse's lymphatic system

The Horse's lymphatic system

Why you should understand more about it 


What is the lymphatic system?

It is probably fair to say that the lymphatic system is not very well understood and yet it is crucial to the horse’s health and performance. The lymphatic system consists of an extensive network of vessels and nodes that help to maintain fluid balance and cellular health. As with most systems in the body, the lymph interacts with other systems including the immune system. As waste material passes through lymph nodes it is analysed for potential pathogens and if present, an immune response is triggered. 

Movement of lymph around the body

The lymphatic system doesn’t have one large pump like the heart in the circulatory system; instead lymph builds up in bead-like collector vessels that keep filling up until the pressure is sufficient to push the valve open. The flow of lymph is also stimulated by muscle contraction, the arterial pulse and movement of the gut (peristalsis). 
The horse has a lot of lymph nodes – 8000 compared to 600 in humans. Half of the horse’s nodes are in the colon and so will function best when plenty of peristalsis occurs. This is one of the anatomical differences between an herbivore that is designed to spend most of its time eating, and an omnivore that tends to meal feed. This is another reason to feed horses plenty of fibre as it helps to stimulate the lymph system. 

Filled legs – the problem of pushing water up hill!

Physical movement is beneficial to stimulate flow which is why horses that are sedentary for long periods can end up with filled legs. After exercise, the lymphatic system has lots of work to do clearing the debris from cells that have been working hard to supply fuel. Even with some time dedicated to “cooling down” the performance horse is sedentary again relatively quickly which can compromise the efficiency of the lymph system. Turning a horse out after exercise is really beneficial as the horse is moving around and eating, both of which help to stimulate the flow of lymph.  

Source Details

 Debgie Horse Feeds

Click here to return to the News page.

Store Locator For website enquiries and online orders phone 01769 576419 (8.30am - 5.30pm 5 days a week)