Why is my horse chewing wood and other items?
Many horse owners wonder why is their horse chewing items. Wood Chewing, or the advanced version of Cribbing, or that of any substance can be caused by many factors.
HORSE CHEWING FACTORS
- Young Horses and Medical Conditions
Not only does it damage the wood (and potentially your stables, fence, trees!) it is also damaging for your horses teeth and gums. However, this can also be the cause behind the chewing.
Similar to a toddler with a teething ring, young horses and ponies need to find comfort. This can be achieved in rubbing their gums along surfaces, and chewing on items such as wood, rubber objects and generally anything they find which they shouldn’t chew!
In the first instance, consult an equine dentist or vet to check that there are no dental, medical or nutritional issues. A vet could also rule out any ulcers or other pain related factors which could be behind the need to chew.
- Dietary Needs
Other factors can be a fibre or vitamin deficiency in the diet. By adding a salt or mutli-mineral lick in their stable can help rebalance this or consult a nutritionist to discuss your horses diet.
- Learned Behaviour
As with other stable vices, these can be learned by watching a fellow horse and copying them.
As horses are herd animals they can easily become stressed if secluded for long periods. Try to keep them at grass to be kept occupied or in company for as long as possible.
HORSE CHEWING SOLUTIONS
There are options you can take to prevent the horses damaging themselves, and your property, whilst alleviating the pain they are experiencing or habit they are developing.
- Stable toys and licks
These are a great distraction, not just for young playful horses, but for any horses which spend long periods of time in the stable to ensure that they do not get bored and in turn pick up bad habits such as cribbing, wind sucking or weaving. Sometimes they don’t last as long as expected!
- Anti Chew Guards
Many stable doors have anti chew strips across the top doors, (for larger horses with a larger neck span we can also provide chew strips to the central part upon request) these prevent the horses from eating their doors whilst stabled and causing expensive repairs.
- Tanalised Wood
If your stables, or the infills are wooden, ensure they are tanalised to increase the longevity of the wood, and prevent the horses from nibbling at them. However, they are safe for use around animals should they decided to take a bite!
- Cribbing Products
You can purchase non-toxic sprays, liquids and substances to coat the areas where the horses are chewing to discourage them. This is handy with young horses to prevent their teething relief becoming a lifelong habit. If you have wooden fencing, you could also run electric tape in front of the rails to prevent the rails being chewed and broken. Also top doors can be fitted retrospectively to an existing lower door to prevent horses reaching out to chew items perhaps stored in the aisles.
It may seem obvious, but make sure your horse has access to good quality ad-lib hay or haylage at all times so they don’t get hungry or look for something else to try and eat.
The pony pictured is our teething and mischievous youngster, and some horses are just playful and will pick up items as shown for entertainment or attention purposes. However, the signs should be investigated to ensure there are no underling issues. By doing so will eliminate the possibility that it is not an obsessive and destructive habit, which once learned can be hard to shake off.