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Horse eating poop and pine trees..why??

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  • Horse eating poop and pine trees..why??

    I have an 11 y/o gelding who is driving me crazy with his recent habits and I'm not sure what to do (if anything) about them. I recently started fecal testing for worming and about 6 weeks ago he tested positive for strongyles so I gave him Ivermectin. Shortly thereafter, I noticed he was eating his poop, though only when turned out, not in his stall. I did a new fecal check 3 weeks later and test came back negative, worm free (through Horseman's Laboratory). I thought maybe it was the worming meds and bought probiotics for him (Probios) and he has been getting 5g 2x/day for about 9 days now- and he's still eating his poop. I just started him yesterday on vit E/Selenium/Magnesium in case maybe be needs more vitamins.

    More recently (last weekend) he started eating the pine trees in his paddock. Like, a lot. Not just the needles, but the branches (smallish) too.

    What the heck is going on with my horse? Is it boredom? He eats 3qts of Blue Seal Sentinel and about 25#s (1/2 bale) of hay daily. He has access to a salt/mineral block outside. He's turned out for about 12-14 hours/day in a fairly decent sized paddock (about 1/3 acre) with another horse. He does not eat her poop (their piles are fairly distinct, so I can tell...), only his own. It's like he picks through the piles, he doesn't eat them completely. His weight is right where it should be and he eats poop and the trees even when there is still hay left, so I don't think it's a "he's hungry" thing.

    Is this normal? Should I be concerned? Will it hurt him? I fenced off the trees with temp fence as best as I could, but he can probably still reach some of the longer branches. Just not sure what else to do! TIA!

  • #2
    Does he have something to eat when he us turned out? Is there grass left? Does he get hay outside?


    • Original Poster

      No grass left (it's winter) but yes they get about 5 flakes (for the 2 of them) of hay in the morning when they go out, another 2 when my husband gets home in the afternoon, another 2 with their pm grain when I get home, and then they come in late and get another 2 in their stalls. They rarely clean up all of their hay outside.


      • #4
        Google "coprophagria" horse, it may help give some suggestions.

        I had one that did that, never truly found out why, but the main reasons are either lack of protein, lack of B-vitamin complex or lack of pre-probiotics.

        I added some more alfalfa, a full b-vitamin complex, FOS & MOS prebiotics as well as a probiotic supplement.

        The very unpleasant behavior luckily stopped.

        The eating pine tree twigs, a lot of horses if access will eat twigs in winter, looking for different sources of fiber, in the wild they did it too. I often give mine some safe tree branches/twigs to chew the bark off in winter.


        • #5
          My first thought was: Is there anything else to eat?

          Because honestly, if there is nothing else to chew on, most of them will eat poop and pine trees.
          Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans


          • #6
            I wonder if the pine trees contain something that helps balance out their stomach PH, as both of mine love pine bark, winter or summer. One day DH and I were limbing up pine trees in their pasture and as soon as we dropped the branches, they both came running over and tore into the bark like it was candy. They get free choice hay 24x7, mixed grass and alfalfa in their pasture, as well as TC TLC 2x daily. I also supplement with vit E in winter to compensate for the lack of fresh grass.
            Lowly Farm Hand with Delusions of Barn Biddieom.
            Witherun Farm


            • #7
              I'd suspect ulcers. Horses with ulcers tend to "seek" anything they can to find their own cure...
              www.littlebullrun@aol.com See Little Bull Run's stallions at:
              "Argosy" - YouTube and "Boleem" - YouTube
              Boleem @ 1993 National Dressage Symposium - YouTube


              • Original Poster

                Originally posted by sid View Post
                I'd suspect ulcers. Horses with ulcers tend to "seek" anything they can to find their own cure...
                I can nearly guarantee it's not ulcers- he is in a completely stress free environment (backyard barn with 1 barnmate who he is dominant over and gets along with) and basically on vacation as I can only ride on the weekends in good weather at this point (dark too damn early to ride during the week!). In fact, he's been much more calm and relaxed since I brought him home at the end of September, and was being treated (gastroguard and ulcerguard) for potential ulcers over the summer at his previous (very busy) barn when he was grumpy tacking up. After several weeks of tx with no change, I stopped the meds and bought a new saddle instead (and the symptoms-grumpiness- have mostly gone away since then! Poor guy's saddle was pinching his withers).


                • Original Poster

                  Originally posted by SmartAlex View Post
                  My first thought was: Is there anything else to eat?

                  Because honestly, if there is nothing else to chew on, most of them will eat poop and pine trees.
                  Yes, as stated they get plenty of hay outside, and I've seen him go over to eat the pine tree even with fresh hay still available. At this point I'm guessing there must just be something about it (the sugary sap?) that he must enjoy.


                  • #10
                    Many dewormers can trigger ulcers.
                    chaque pas est fait ensemble


                    • #11
                      My guys do all sorts of goofy things in the winter when they can't graze and get bored. They chew on trees and play games with sticks. Maybe try a toy--a jolly ball or one of those "grazing" toys that dispenses treats?


                      • #12
                        Trees taste good. And heck, it is not what you want him to chew on so all the more reason to chew on it.


                        • #13
                          My mare ate all the bark of the trees she could reach when she had ulcers, even when hay was available to her.

                          Just because you think he's in a stress free environment right now does not always make it so. Horses can be great at internalizing...my mare seems the picture of calm and happy...meanwhile, ulcers are a brewing inside...
                          "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."


                          • #14
                            I would try adding more hay, of a different variety, to see if that makes a difference. Perhaps a few flakes of an alfalfa mix, in addition to what he usually eats, will help the manure eating. I think pine trees are just tasty.


                            • #15
                              if it started up immediately after deworming, I'd suspect the ivermectin caused or aggravated ulcers.


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by She's Pure Gold View Post
                                No grass left (it's winter) but yes they get about 5 flakes (for the 2 of them) of hay in the morning when they go out, another 2 when my husband gets home in the afternoon, another 2 with their pm grain when I get home, and then they come in late and get another 2 in their stalls. They rarely clean up all of their hay outside.

                                2 flakes wouldn't last my horses very long at one feeding. If you put out 5 flakes for 2 horses they are going to eat them pretty quickly and then they have hours and hours to fill until they get fed in the afternoon.

                                I am not doubting they get enough hay in a 24 hour period, it just isn't much at any one feeding. Try upping the hay in the morning by a couple of flakes each and see if the behavior stops?


                                • #17
                                  A horse doesn't need to be "stressed" to develop ulcers...like in human terms.

                                  Heck, a huge percentage of foals are born with them. I've had a few and the #1 clue is when I see them start eating wierd stuff (seeking something/anything that may help them -- wood, dirt, gravel -- their choice may vary). They still nurse, they still much hay, but they still have ulcers that must be treated. When treated that stops.

                                  To paraphrase what the head of internal medicine at Morven Park told me years ago -- "a horse is producing grastric juices 24/7 -- unlike humans who produce it only while digesting. A horses' stomach contents empty in about 45 minutes, so the longer there in nothing in the stomach, the higher the likelihood of developing ulcers. They are nomadic, constant grazers -that always have something in their stomachs".

                                  I did have one horse that devoured the bark off a hickory tree. It was in her last 2 weeks of pregnancy. Not an ulcer thing, but probably either a "pickles and ice cream" phase ... or more likely, also seeking some form of discomfort relief (which of course it didn't give..lol!)

                                  Just passing it on for what it's worth.
                                  Last edited by sid; Dec. 19, 2012, 05:10 PM. Reason: typos
                                  www.littlebullrun@aol.com See Little Bull Run's stallions at:
                                  "Argosy" - YouTube and "Boleem" - YouTube
                                  Boleem @ 1993 National Dressage Symposium - YouTube


                                  • Original Poster

                                    Thanks for the feedback. I'm still skeptical about the ulcers, but I do have Ulcerguard left over and his buddy just left today so he will be alone for the next week until the new boarder gets here- I guess I might as well start giving him the UG in his pellets as a precaution. I can try giving him more hay in the am and see how it goes.


                                    • #19
                                      Another suggestion outside of more hay is to use a small hole hay net to slow down how fast he eats the hay. That way it will last longer.


                                      • #20
                                        Why are you adding the UlcerGard to pellets? Just administer like wormer, which is why it comes in a syringe...
                                        "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."