Chewing and licking wood

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Chewing and licking wood

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    01-21-2014, 01:57 AM
Angry Chewing and licking wood

My horse does not crib on wood. He does however, eat it!!! It is so frustrating! He licks metal and wood after dinner while is looking around and mainly when he is bored. How can I make him stop eating the wood on the fence :( is this dangerous to his health? He isn't eating it as a meal, he has 24/7 hay and eats the wood in the winter only. He is outside 24/7 also.
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    01-21-2014, 02:10 AM
Super Moderator
He is either bored, stressed or lacks minerals/vitamins due to unbalanced feeding. Check out all these aspects and stop thinking about it as a "vice" - it's a horse, telling you loud and clear, that something is not quite comfortable about his life. Help him overcome it by improving his environment - take away the boredom or/and the stress, improve his feeding, and he will no longer have the need to chew on wood.
smrobs and 4hoofbeat like this.
    01-21-2014, 02:56 AM
When my horse is tied up, he licks the wood and metal. I don't think it's cause of an unbalanced diet. Or that he's stressed or bored, he's never tied long. I think it's just because he likes the way it tastes, maybe it's salty? Who knows. But it's not necessarily a bad thing. I'd make sure it's not boredom, diet or any of that, but don't freak out about it. Eating wood isn't good, my horse doesn't do that. But licking isn't the end of the world.
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    01-21-2014, 03:08 AM
Super Moderator
Eating wood, actually, is very natural to them - in a good, biologically diverse pasture environment, horses will find trees and bushes beneficial to them, and will chew on them, eat the bark, the branches, the leaves, especially, in winter, when there is no grass or it lacks nutrients.

Also, when we tie a horse, we have to keep in mind that even we don't tie them for long by our evaluation, it might seem long to a horse with a very active mind - each is individual. ;) My gelding, for example, gets bored within a few minutes of being tied - he behaves well and does not make a scene out of it, but you can tell. Then again, he's a type who needs constant stimulus to be happy!
    01-21-2014, 03:16 AM
Originally Posted by Saranda    
Eating wood, actually, is very natural to them - in a good, biologically diverse pasture environment, horses will find trees and bushes beneficial to them, and will chew on them, eat the bark, the branches, the leaves, especially, in winter, when there is no grass or it lacks !
I didn't know that! Learn something new everyday, I mean, I have heard of horses eating bark in the past. But I never knew it was beneficial for them. Interesting! I figured the op was talking more about them chewing on the posts they're tied to.
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    01-21-2014, 03:21 AM
Super Moderator
Even if it's just a post or a fence a horse is tied to, or a wooden box stall, a horse may chew it instinctively, because of the smell and the texture, as he knows that's one way of getting what his body needs. Well, it's at least one of the reasons, if we cross out boredom/stress or sometimes teeth problems. For example, when my gelding colicked last autumn, he went straight to a willow tree and started eating the bark - and willow bark is known to relieve pain and to regulate bowel action naturally.
    01-21-2014, 11:01 AM
That makes me feel a little better about it! I didn't know chewing was natural, thanks for everyone's words :)
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    01-21-2014, 03:49 PM
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Our experience has been that horses eating wood, eating bark off of trees, licking dirt and metal, etc. are deficient in Calcium and Magnesium. It is almost always horses that are on grass pasture or grass hay. Most grasses have a high amount of Phosphorus (P) and a low amount of Calcium (Ca) and Magnesium(Mg). They are worse in winter because they do not have the Forbs (broad-leaf brush, wild flowers and weeds) to balance out their diet that are more available in the summer months.

Almost all horses except those starved for fiber (eating too little hay) will stop eating wood if they are given a free-choice loose mineral that is high in Ca and low in P. We prefer one that is around 25% Ca, 4-5% P and 2% Mg. We often have new horses and visiting mares come in and eat it like grain until they get their fill of it.

These same horses will eat soft woods like Cottonwood, Poplar, Willow, etc like candy. Before we figured out where to find a good mineral that corrected the problem, we cut small trees and branches to keep them from eating up corrals and stalls.

The mineral we are currently keeping out is labeled as an "Un-medicated Wheat Pasture Mineral. It also has 200,000 IU Vitamin A, so it prevents most Rain Rot and other skin and eye problems.
    01-21-2014, 04:10 PM
Super Moderator
When I've had horses that do this - ruling out boredom and I have one ticklish horse that does it in a sort of temper tantrum when she's being groomed - I put a good mineral lick in the stable and hang some around the paddocks if they do it in there as well - always seems to work
    01-21-2014, 04:21 PM
Green Broke
I wonder if it could also be a OCD type of behavior? Whenever I work with Vince, he's either chewing on the cross-ties, or tries to get a hold of anything leather to chew on. His bridle is particularly tasty. If I'm not careful, he will chew on my jacket or anything else he can get a hold of. It's like a pacifier for him.

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