DIRT FOR DIN­NER?

EQUUS - - Eq Handson -

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 sand0 colic. If you no­tice this be­hav­ior in your horse, fig­ure out what’s mo­ti­vat­ing it and how you can stop it.

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.

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