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Is he just a weirdo or is he telling me something?

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  • Is he just a weirdo or is he telling me something?

    My horse has taken to eating dirt. His preference is for silt washed up from our creeks flooding last Thursday

    I noticed it last night while hand walking him. He stopped on the drive and scraped around in the dry mud leftover from one of the creeks flooding that section of driveway. He raked his teeth across and picked up a rock, spit it out, and snarfled a bit more. He seemed to be enjoying himself.

    Later on, while hand grazing, he got to a section of the field that had some silt and mud left over from the flood. He cropped the grass straight down to the roots, then snarfled around and took a few nibbles. It was amusing, but I suggested we go somewhere else.

    Again, tonight, a few mouthfuls of grass, roots and all, then some little noshes on the dirt below.

    He has access to salt and mineral blocks everywhere he is, he has a balanced diet, lots of forage. Is he just goofy, or is he really missing something? I've never noticed this before, and I hang out with him a lot in his pasture (which did not flood, nor did any of the areas he has been hand grazed around the barn...and he hasn't snacked on dirt up there)...and it really seems to have something to do with the areas that were flooded (the silt is quite sandy). Is it just new and interesting to him?


  • #2
    My horses have eaten dried up dirt from where ponds had been before (this was during the drought), even though they had both red and white blocks and were on a ration balancer. I'd let them take a bite or two, then move them along. Obviously, there is something in it that they like, although I can't imagine they are deficient in anything. It's interesting that is it dirt that originated in water with your horse and mine.


    • #3
      Bonnie does it when she's anxious or bored. Never, ever have I seen her do it in any other circumstances. The exception being licking bleach water off the ground after I scrub the waterer--she will come RUNNING to do that, but it's the bleach she's after, not the dirt.
      Click here before you buy.


      • #4
        Both of mine will eat the mud in one particular drainage ditch along the trails. We have several different ditches to cross, but they only pause to eat the mud at this particular one. I have also noted that they don't stop to eat every time. I figure they know what they need, and let them have a couple of nibbles if they choose and then move on.


        • #5
          My horse does this to. With the drought in Texas there are dried up water holes everywhere. He particularly likes the dried algae left in a dried up stream.

          I've thought of putting him on source as it looks and smells like that.

          He too has access to salt and minerals and gets a full portion of grain, farriers formula, alfalfa and hay...


          • #6
            My horse does this - but only at the end of summer. There is a pond where we stop for a drink on a routine basis. Starting in late summer, he will eat chunks of mud at the edge of the pond. This time of year, the water level is lower, so the "makeup" of the mud may be different than other times of the year.


            • #7
              I've had horses at certain times of the year lick the dirt near dried up puddles as well as gnaw on old tree stumps even though they have mineral blocks and vitamin supplements to complement their feed.

              I also had one horse that would constantly eat dirt, poop and even his companion's tail. He was scoped and did have ulcers. Even after treatment he occasionally went through bouts of the pica. The vet said that sometimes they develop a taste for whatever they may have tried and it becomes a habit. Found out later from the breeder that this particular horse chewed tails as a baby too.

              The vet also said a horse might try to lick clay soil to soothe its stomach. I would just keep an eye on the horse to make sure the dirt licking is not excessive. My horse with ulcers did colic but we don't know if was the ulcers or some of the weird stuff he was eating.


              • Original Poster

                The vet also said a horse might try to lick clay soil to soothe its stomach.

                He has had a rough couple of weeks and been on and off a lot of bute, SMZs, etc. He also got stuck inside for 4+ days last week because of all the rain, and, to top things off, bashed himself hard enough his first day back in turn out to cause tendon damage and is now on stall rest and walking. So, he has every reason to be ulcery. He's definitely been complaining about his belly (doing his "yoga", etc) and I have him on a small dose of Ulcergard for now (bumping it up soon).

                The mud noshing may be a total coincident (and I'm glad to know he's not alone!). But, it is interesting that some contribute it to upset stomachs.


                • #9
                  Interesting! The clay theory makes sense and it sounds like your horse has a great personality to boot!!
                  Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakend. ~Anatole France~


                  • #10
                    My ulcer prone guy also tends to eat clay dirt. And he doesn't like salt or mineral blocks. I guess its time to put him back on the pop rocks.
                    Lowly Farm Hand with Delusions of Barn Biddieom.
                    Witherun Farm


                    • #11
                      My big horse did that when he was confined 24-7 on suspensory layup -- I'd hand graze him on lush grass and he'd drag me over to the dirt margin.

                      I made sure he had a salt block in his stall and it helped, but mostly it just went away when he was back to a more horse-like life (he HATED stall rest)...
                      The big man -- my lost prince

                      The little brother, now my main man