It's not unusual for horses with too much free time on their hands to start chewing wood. This does not mean the horse has deficiencies, assures Dr. Eleanor Kellon. However, it can wreak havoc with your fences, pillars and posts, not to mention your horse's digestive tract.
Overweight horses often have abnormally large appetites. If you've recently implemented a weight loss program (as outlined in "Lean Cuisine: Did Someone Say Diet?" Perfect Horse, April 2006), your horse is probably getting plenty to eat. Yet he is likely undergoing an appetite readjustment. As his weight normalizes, his cravings should decrease.
In the meantime, to combat wood-chewing, here are a few simple strategies:
- Feed the horse on a strict schedule. Late feedings only make the horse fret more.
- Feed hay from a net/bag or feeder with slots. This slows how quickly the horse can eat. Hay nets or bags can be hung on the other side of the fence and carefully secured there to prevent any danger of the horse putting a leg into them.
- If necessary, soak hay before feeding to leach out simple sugars. This reduces the calorie content of the hay, allowing you to feed more.
- Muzzle the horse between feedings.
- Increase your horse's exercise to increase his metabolism, decrease his appetite and make it easier for him to relax between meals.