Mythbuster: Why horses eat dirt

The idea that horses eat dirt in search of specific specific nutrients is outdated. Here are more likely reasons your horse may have developed a taste for soil.

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.

Horses who ingest dirt usually do so out of boredom.

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.

Click here to learn the facts of about sand colic. 

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.

Don’t miss out! With the free weekly EQUUS newsletter, you’ll get the latest horse health information delivered right to your in basket! If you’re not already receiving the EQUUS newsletter, click here to sign up. It’s *free*!

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




Related Posts

Gray horse head in profile on EQ Extra 89 cover
What we’ve learned about PPID
Do right by your retired horse
Tame your horse’s anxiety
COVER EQ_EXTRA-VOL86 Winter Care_fnl_Page_1
Get ready for winter!


"*" indicates required fields


Additional Offers

Additional Offers
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.