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Unusual Eating Behavior in Horses

Find out what’s causing your horse’s unusual eating behaviors with Nutrena and Blain’s Farm & Fleet.

Unusual eating behavior–also known as pica–can be caused by a number of factors when it comes to horses. It may cause your horse to eat manure, eat dirt, eat tree bark, chew on fence boards, chew on a stable mate’s mane and tail or chew on tool handles and leather equipment. Nutrena Roy J. has some suggestions as to what can cause these unusual behaviors. Go through the following checklist with your horse.

Unusual Eating Behavior in Horses

Unusual Easting Behavior in Horses
If you’ve noticed unusual eating behaviors in your horse, the culprit might be salt deficiency. Nutrena and Blain’s Farm & Fleet team up to help you get your horse back on the right track.

1. Lack of Salt – A lack of salt can cause quite a few eating problems–eating manure, dirt and chewing on objects like tree bark and tool handles. Offer your horses loose salt free choice instead of a salt block if you don’t think they’re getting enough salt. Of course, block salt is better than offering no salt at all. A maintenance horse needs 1-2 ounces of salt per day, which can increase to 4-6 ounces in hot and humid conditions, or with added exercise.

2. Inadequate Fiber Intake – Your horse will look for other things to eat if it’s not full. It’s crucial that your horse has access to adequate long stem roughage. Without enough roughage, your horse may start to chew on fences, trees, manes and tails.

3. Phosphorus Deficiency РPhosphorus deficiency can cause unusual eating behaviors such as eating dirt or manure. Be sure to offer your horses a free choice calcium, phosphorus and salt mineral.

4. Protein Deficiency РNot enough protein or poor quality protein can trigger unusual behaviors. Evaluate forage and work with your local veterinarian to determine if a new feeding plan is in order.

5. Ulcers – Horses with ulcers will sometimes eat manure or dirt, and also chew on other objects. The saliva produced from chewing is believed to have a buffering effect.

Start by offering your horse loose salt free choice and making sure the fiber intake is adequate. If this doesn’t solve the problem, offer a good mineral product (calcium, phosphorus and salt combination). You can also evaluate their feed program. An ulcer assessment may be necessary if these don’t work. Of course, we always recommend working with your horse’s veterinarian to ensure the best care. For more tips horse care and other farm animals, visit our Hobby Farming blog.


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