September 19, 2017
Fall wood chewing in horses.
Q: My horse has chewed the bark off of the trees in his field and now he’s destroying the wood in his stall!
Why is he doing this?
As the days get shorter and the temperatures drop, some horses may be more prone to chewing on wood. Studies have shown that horses are more likely to chew on wood during wet, cold weather. Veterinarians speculate wood chewing may be due to an instinctive urge for more roughage to, “bulk-up”, before winter as preparation for upcoming cold temperatures and a reduction in food sources.
As long as your veterinarian has ruled out a physical cause such a as nutritional deficiency, here are a few ideas to discourage this destructive behavior:
Provide more long-stem forage. Horses that have free choice access to hay are less likely to chew on wood. If you’re worried about waste consider a hay feeder. Keeping hay up off the ground prevents spoilage from moisture. It also prevents horses from urinating or defecating in their food. If your horses are over-weight ask your vet if it’s okay to fill hay nets or feeders with a low nutrient feed stuff such as straw or the previous year’s hay.
Block access to wood structures. Damage to stalls and fencing is expensive. Even mature trees will die if de-barked. Consider stringing an electrical wire just on the inside of the fence to keep horses away from fence lines and exterior barn walls and buildings. Tractor Supply sells a D battery-operated fence charger. Aluminum wire is relatively safe because it’s soft and breaks easily if the horses get hung up. Protect trees with fencing placed beyond a horse’s reach of tree’s trunk.
Make the wood distasteful. There are many commercial products on the market to discourage wood chewing. We’ve also heard from CareMore Nutrition Clients that Dawn Dish Soap applied to wood surfaces keeps horses away.
Eliminate boredom. Regular exercise, training programs, field rotation or pasture mate changes may keep some horses from chewing out of boredom. Keep him busy.
Take a look at more that CareMore has to offer for your horse here.
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