Eating Dirt

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Eating Dirt

This is a discussion on Eating Dirt within the Horse Health forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Horses category

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  • 3 Post By Cherie

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    07-15-2013, 02:57 PM
Question Eating Dirt

I've been taking Nell out for walks in our hay fields for the past couple days because it's been too hot to ride, and I noticed, occasionally she'll scrape her teeth along the ground and pick up dirt and eat it. Is there a reason why she's eating it? And is there anything I can give her to prevent colic?
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    07-15-2013, 03:44 PM
You too? One of my mares has been licking/rubbing her teeth in the same patch of dirt for awhile now... it's so weird.

People are mainly saying that it's because they want the salt/minerals from the ground...
    07-15-2013, 05:46 PM
Hmm, that's strange, but interesting to know. She does have a cobalt block in her stall that she licks from time to time, I wonder if that's not enough?
    07-15-2013, 06:33 PM
Super Moderator
Horses that lick and eat dirt are usually deficient in Calcium (Ca) and/or Magnesium (Mg), usually both.

If you are feeding grass or grass hay and the horses are not on a large pasture with varied brush and small trees as well as grass, they usually are not getting enough Ca and Mg.

Trace mineral blocks are useless as they contain no 'macro minerals' and only contain 'micro minerals' known as trace minerals. Horses are seldom if ever deficient in these, but Calcium, Phosphorus and Magnesium are frequently not balanced. Grass usually has a lot of Phosphorus (P) in it and Ca or Ca and Mg are usually low.

The same minerals are responsible for horses eating wood and stripping the bark off of trees.

We have always been able to find a loose livestock mineral that has 3 or 4 times as much Ca in it as P and it also has 2% Mg in it. It also has 150,000 to 200,000 IU of Vitamin A per pound in it. The one we have used for the last 10 years or so is labeled 'Un-medicated Wheat Pasture Mineral'. It stops all tree eating and dirt licking and eating.
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    07-15-2013, 06:43 PM
Green Broke
My QH is an easy keeper (not too obvious in my avatar, but believe me!), and my Morgan is very sensitive to alfalfa, so I have to feed them a very grassy, 1st cutting hay only - I supplement that with a loose mineral called, "Grostrong" (comes in a 25 lb bag) so they get the nutrients they're otherwise missing. Grazing here is sandy (Sand-aid given for 1 wk. Ea. Month as well) and sparse, thus the reason.
    07-15-2013, 06:48 PM
Thanks Cherie, that is really helpful!
    07-15-2013, 07:19 PM
Cherie -- If you don't know for sure if they are deficient in Calcium or magnesium, is it bad to give more to them? My horse eats/licks dirt and he's not turned out to pasture even during the summer. He's in an individual paddock (and stall rest indefinitely right now... but when he is out, he can't go out with the whole herd). Is it okay to give him more? I don't want to hurt my horse...but what you are saying makes sense :)
    07-16-2013, 07:57 AM
Green Broke
Many of those super hard salt/ mineral blocks are made for cattle, you need to get one made for horses. Different ingredients and they crumble a bit easier. You also need to keep it out of the rain. As they crumble more.
    07-16-2013, 09:12 AM
Super Moderator
I have never had a horse eat more of the Ca / Mg mineral than they needed. I also keep plain white salt out so when a horse needs more salt than mineral, they lick or eat the salt.

I have had visiting mares come in, some fat and some looking pretty rough, that ate our mineral like it was grain -- to the point that they ate it instead of grain. They all quit when they no longer needed it and I have never had a problem from using it. We have always liked the loose mineral best and I have never found a horse mineral that I liked as well as the livestock mineral used to prevent grass tetany and Ca deficiencies.

Some of the main things this mineral has helped is that we have not had a crooked or weak legged foal born since using it -- not one and NEVER have to treat rain rot in horses that have had it available -- mostly because a good mineral has a high level of Vitamin A in it.
    07-16-2013, 01:14 PM
Her block is made for horses, and it is sitting safely, protected from the weather, in her stall.

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