Mythbuster: Why horses eat dirt

Avatar:
Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
0

It’s cause for concern when a horse suddenly develops a taste for soil. Licking, lipping or otherwise ingesting dirt on purpose increases a horse’s risk of sand colic. If you notice this behavior in your horse, figure out what’s motivating it and how you can stop it.

IMG_20140925_0012

The idea that horses eat dirt because they lack a particular nutrient is a myth, probably held over from days when equine diets weren’t so carefully crafted. These days, any horse fed a commercial feed formulated for his stage of life is almost certainly well nourished (although it’s always a good idea to double-check the suitability of his ration). What’s more, if a horse were so deficient in any nutrient that he was compelled to eat dirt to find it, he’d likely be showing other signs of trouble, like weight loss or a dull coat.

Horses who ingest dirt usually do so out of boredom. In a natural setting, horses fill their hours grazing, and that “chew time” is important to their mental health. Try offering your horse extra hay, perhaps in a slow feeder, to keep him occupied without increasing his weight or stressing him metabolically. If extra hay doesn’t deter your dirt-eater, try increasing his exercise sessions or matching him up with an active, friendly pasturemate who will provide more stimulating company.


This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #445, October 2014.