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Horses Eating Dirt

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  • Horses Eating Dirt

    I have a spot in my corral where I will catch my horses eating a mouthful of dirt. They are feed a quality feed (TC), quality hay, a daily multivitamin, a mg supplement and Equishure or Smart Digest Ultra (depending on the horse). Any ideas why? It is one specific area but it just looks like dirt to me.

  • #2
    Boredom? I had a TB gelding that would turn around and eat every fresh pile of poo he dropped, but only on the days he wasn't being ridden. I knew another that would down a bucket full of water as soon as it was filled. Both were bored as they could be

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    • #3
      Mine will do that too, occasionally. She'll bite at the ground (clay). She is on a good feed (TC Senior), free choice hay, a regular deworming program, and has no health problems that I know of. A few years ago I had a blood panel made on her, and nothing was amiss . She also likes to eat dead oak leaves, she'll look for them outside.
      Ottbs - The finish line is only the beginning!

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      • #4
        One of mine will occasionally do this if she happens to be in a new place with--presumably--a new flavor of dirt. She will scrape up a little and then never bother with it again. None of my others ever does that I've witnessed.

        This same mare LOVES the taste of bleach and will come running when I clean the auto-waterer to slurp bleach-y mud off the ground. Even if I chase her off she just waits until I leave and licks the ground where the (diluted) bleach-water was thrown.

        I figure it's simply something where she likes the taste.

        I'm pretty sure it's been reasonably well shown that sodium is the only mineral horses can consciously seek out if they are deficient.

        As long as it's infrequent and the spot is not full of sand I probably wouldn't sweat it.
        Click here before you buy.

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        • #5
          I believe my horse does this after periouds of stress when he doesn't eat hay well.

          I believe it aggravates ulcers and he tries to "soothe" them by eating clay dirt.

          Yesterday, because he had to stay in I caught him eating mouthfuls of sawdust.

          Even though he has hay 24/7.
          *Member of the Quality Free-Choice Hay/Pasture Feeders Society* Member of the As Much Turnout as Possible Group* FEED by WEIGHT not VOLUME*

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          • #6
            Mine have all done that occasionally. I just figure they are weird.

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            • #7
              We had a horse years ago who did that only in KY. We are from up north ( eastern township of Quebec) and the horse had digestive problems even if he evented successfully for some years. This was way before there was any talk of ulcers in horses, IMO he had a bad case of them. But when ever we took him to KY either for lay over or for competing when hand grazing he would allways pull the grass and eat the dirt.
              I expect there was something in the dirt down there that soothed his stomac or intestines.
              Sweet horse he was.

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              • #8
                they have a deficency in a mineral noramlly salt content as they are seeking the salt from the earth

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by goeslikestink View Post
                  they have a deficency in a mineral noramlly salt content as they are seeking the salt from the earth
                  I was told it was a mineral deficiency as well by a trainer. Does your horse have a salt block in his/her stall? Also if his diet (hay/grain) isn't giving him all the minerals he needs, you could look into adding a supplement into his diet.

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                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    Thanks All! maybe they aren't quite as weird as I thought. They do have salt in each stall but there could be some other mineral they are lacking.

                    I have the vet out later this month for vaccinations and teeth. I think I may run a blood panel just out of curiosity.

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                    • #11
                      As I mentioned above, there are some studies out there showing that horses DO NOT and CANNOT self-select what minerals to eat if they are deficient, the exception being sodium.
                      Click here before you buy.

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                      • #12
                        Mine are on a ration balancer, with a salt block and often a mineral block as well, so I seriously doubt that is the issue. It sounds reasonable, of course, but the circumstances don't back that up.

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                        • #13
                          One of mine loves to lick and eat the dirt around creeks and ponds. I think it's just something different and probably does have extra minerals and lots of flavor.

                          He doesn't have access to a mineral block because he just eats it in chunks and they are gone in a few days. He's also picky about his grass, he only selects the best sprouts and just sniffs and passes on the rest.

                          Some horses are just 'foodies' I think.

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                          • #14
                            I have a few days off for flu/ Easter and just realized my pony is doing this. Took him yesterday to a friend's yard which has some of the last dry grass left in Deschapelles. He went straight to a bare patch, pawed the ground to dust, and slurped it up. Then came to greet everyone with his muddy mouth . The soils are all clay so if he can only detect sodium, I'm not sure why he'd go for that. No sign of ulcers that I can tell, though his diet if anything is deficient in calcium right the moment. Our dirt is almost all calcium carbonate so I figure if he stays away from poop piles, it shouldn't do him in. He gets free choice water and loose salt mixed with his twice a day feed. Otherwise the loose salt turns to brine, even in the dry season. I'm upping the salt in his food, just in case.
                            HAS provides hospital care to 340,000 people in Haiti's Artibonite Valley 24/7/365/earthquake/cholera/whatever.
                            www.hashaiti.org blog:http://hashaiti.org/blog

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by HorsesinHaiti View Post
                              The soils are all clay so if he can only detect sodium, I'm not sure why he'd go for that.
                              search 'sodic soil'. Sodic = high in sodium. Fairly common in clay soils, where the high capillary action sucks up salts from lower layers as they dry out.
                              Are you feeding your horse like a cow? www.safergrass.org

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                              • #16
                                I had a TB gelding that would do this, in each paddock he lived in he would find a low spot of rich black clay type soil and although I never saw him do it, he would over time lick/chew the soil into a perfectly shaped bowl of about 14" in diameter. I only figured out what was creating the "bowl" after I moved him to a different stall/paddock!

                                He was well fed and supplemented, and in much higher spirits here at my farm than when he came to me. Of course he had a salt block in his stall with 24/7 access to a paddock as well.

                                I agree some of them are "foodies". Personally, I prefer salt from Omaha over regular table salt or other fancy Himalyan varieties. I'm sure they have select taste buds as well.

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                                • #17
                                  The only horse of ours who ever did that was in the bouts of a serious gastric upset due to an allergy to corn. She was hospitalized and they had to keep her on pavement at the hospital because she would try and eat dirt. After the gastritis cleared up, so did her temptation to "self medicate" with dirt.

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                                  • #18
                                    I've been mystified for years by my mare's odd fixation with black soil found in year-round wetland areas, with lots of oak leaves that, presumably, have composted into the black soil.

                                    Today, in fact, on my first ride back in Natchaug forest, my mare decided to take a side trail and, as I expected, she took this longer route in order to get to a patch of ground she remembered from past rides. She dove in, trying to get mouthfuls of the black soil. She wants to eat this sort of soil whenever we come across it. There has GOT to be something in it she's missing in her diet, even with getting Accel and free-choice "Rush Creek minerals" (which she devours as soon as I put them out for her ... but don't seem to make a difference in her fixation on that mucky, yucky black soil!)

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Since I was home today, I put out extra salt in Hoover's feed bucket. He ignored it for awhile, but by dinnertime the extra was gone. I'll come up with a salt container and put extra out each evening until I find out how much he'll eat in a day, and we'll see how that goes.
                                      HAS provides hospital care to 340,000 people in Haiti's Artibonite Valley 24/7/365/earthquake/cholera/whatever.
                                      www.hashaiti.org blog:http://hashaiti.org/blog

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Minerals the dirt has that they are seeking

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