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Tink 02-20-2010 06:13 PM

Horse eating saplings - is he 'starving' or just bored??
I'm not sure if this is the right place for this... but, I have a 17 year-old Saddlebred gelding that I rescued a year ago. He has put on a lot of weight since then (the vet rated him at a 2 when I got him) and I feel like he is at a good, healthy weight - he has filled out, can't feel ribs... still could use 'weight' on his topline, but I'm sure that muscle will come with work. His neck actually, well, 'jiggles'.

Anyway, this winter he has taken to pushing the fence to try to eat anything along the outside - saplings, the forsithia (sp?), poison ivy. We've had some bad storms which kept me from being able to have the fence turned on. Now, I've got the fence on and he was nibbling on the white pines in the pasture! Is he really that hungry or is he just bored?? Or, is it some sort of behavior caused by being starved before I got him - like he thinks every meal is his last?

He gets fed twice a day - 3lbs of grain, ~15lbs of hay (alfalfa/timothy/grass) each feeding. Is this not enough??

EPMhorse 02-20-2010 07:13 PM

If you can't feel his ribs anymore, and when you put your hands under the winter coat he feels like he has some fat on him, then it is not a problem with how many calories he is getting.

If he is by himself, he may be bored. With another horse he may still be bored if he is not getting much riding or attention.

It may also be that he needs fiber more than twice per day. If he has stomach acid when he doesn't have any fiber to chew, me may chew on other things. Try a small mesh hay net or slow feeder to make the hay last longer, and entertain him longer during the day.

Slow Feeding Horses on Paddock Paradise Tracks - Paddock Paradise Wiki try the slow feeder or small mesh hay net pages.

PaintHorseMares 02-21-2010 06:11 AM


Originally Posted by Tink (Post 558779)
Is he really that hungry or is he just bored?? Or, is it some sort of behavior caused by being starved before I got him - like he thinks every meal is his last?

Probably none of the above. Some trees just taste good, especially this time of year when spring is coming, the sap will be flowing, and it's a change from just eating hay all winter. Many folks see a similar behavior in the fall with their horses liking to eat acorns.

Tink 02-21-2010 09:45 AM

He does have a pasture pal, but unfortunately due to the weather hasn't been ridden in forever. He'll be out nibbling on saplings, while his pasture pal is napping in the sun.

Thanks for the link, EPMhorse....

I'm wondering if I should also try 'stall' toys... like that Jolly Stall Snack System. He doesn't have a stall since we have a run-in, but I could put one up in the run-in.

White Foot 02-22-2010 05:29 PM

Painthorsemares, is right. This time of the year is maple syrup time, all the sap is sweet. My horses tear the trees apart now.

NorthernMama 02-22-2010 06:29 PM

I have always seen horses chew on trees. We used to drag poplars (aspen) from the bush for them actually. I figure there is something in there that they need and don't discourage it.

rockaway 03-11-2010 11:06 PM

HI - I went to a nutrition seminar and she indicated that you need to feed the topline with minerals and vit- that calories alone will not do it (you can have fat on other parts of the horse and no topline if not feeding correctly- working it will not put on a topline if there is none to start with)- she was from buckeye and was very helpful - ( i know to watch the sales pitch but she knew her stuff). I also read that horses that eat fences trees etc are often def in minerals such as copper , zinc , bunch of others. I never really thought about it as I thought I fed my horses well (great hay and a salt mineral lick the blue or brown one - now use a better mineral lick) and they were eating the small trees like crazy. We have a sulphur smell to our well water (only can tell if the water is not turned on for a long time) so I guess sulphur is there ( not in the house though) - sulphur hinders copper use in the horse. I started giving the gro and win from buckey and they stopped. I am not saying that is what your horses have but it makes sense. I started out by wondering why my black turned a bit rusty red - copper deficiency -then kept finding out more and more. Maybe this will help.

SorrelHorse 03-17-2010 11:23 AM

Jester does this as well. He wringed all our oak trees ansd then proceeded to everything else. >.<

I have been told that the "tree-taste" is sort of addicting, just like drugs to us, that once they try it then they want to keep coming. And they're just bored.

Try spraying the saplings with that pepper-spray stuff to stop cribbing. I don't know what it will do to the poor tree, but at least it should stop the chewing.

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