Eating Dirt?


 Why Horses Eat Dirt, Faeces and Bark 

 

Horse 2 eating dirt

 

The Natural and best way to provide supplements, minerals and pro-biotics

Nature really know best and applying some of these simple principles as part of livestock management will ensure the health of your animals at a fraction of the cost to supplement and to get the vet out

Why do horses eat dirt?

Dirt eating can be normal behavior in horses. In most cases it is probably a form of self supplementation

or self-medication.

  • needing salt (specifically, the sodium in salt)
  • needing other minerals
  • needing beneficial micro-organisms from the soil to aid digestion
  • needing the absorbent activity of clay to settle a digestive upset
  • boredom, habit
  • presence of a disease which alters mental function

1 Salt and mineral seeking behavior

Horses and other herbivores are meant to get the minerals they need for health, through—plant material. The more varied the selection of plant materials

and grazing areas, the more able horses are to meet their needs. Sometimes, though, the available forage does not meet all of their mineral needs, so they must go in search of other sources of sodium and whatever other minerals they may be lacking at the time. This salt- or mineralseeking behavior leads them to lick rocks, earth, and even each other.

Offering the horse salt and feeding a well-formulated mineral supplement that is appropriate for the individual horse’s needs should stop the dirt eating if this behavior is being driven by nutritional deficiency.

Solution is to feed just plain sodium chloride as a crude rock salt,  Not a mineral block; just plain salt. The body regulates its water content very closely

And it is advisable to  offer salt separately and free-choice.

2 Beneficial soil microbes

Sometimes horses eat their own droppings to restore gut flora

Horse 2 eating manure

picture of microflora

A healthy soil is teeming with micro-organisms and these are ingested as naturally occurring probiotics. Microbes include Bacteria, fungi, protozoa, arthropods, earthworms (produce humic acid as well as bio-available minerals)

The second possibility is that the dirt-eating horse is in need of beneficial microorganisms

from the soil to aid digestion. Healthy digestion in horses relies on a healthy population of bacteria, protozoa, fungi, and other micro-organisms in the digestive tract, particularly the large intestine (cecum and large colon). These organisms aid in digestion,particularly the breakdown of dietary fiber.

Note: Probiotics too often are overused, inappropriately used, and even inappropriately formulated for horses. It is far better for the horse to self medicate.

3 Absorbent properties of clay

Some horses eat dirt primarily for its absorbent properties. Clays, contain absorbent particles which can bind up bacterial toxins, organic acids, certain viruses, and other potentially harmful substances in the gut. The bound toxins are then harmlessly removed from the body in the manure.

Some soils have remnants of ash in them which acts rather like a carbon filter which will address digestive issues caused by pathogens.

If a horse is eating dirt then it may have a digestive upset of some sort. For example, there may be too much starch or sugar in the diet (whether from grain or lush grass) which has disordered the normal microbial population of the digestive tract.

4 Other reasons

For horses who eat dirt out of boredom or habit require the following

  • more grazing time
  • a hay net placed at a level similar to pasture grazing levels
  • equine company.
  • daily activity which is physically and mentally stimulating.

5 Why do horses chew wood and debark trees?

Wood eating can be normal behavior in horses, or it can indicate a problem, such as illness, inadequate dietary fiber, or boredom. Bark, branches, roots, and other seemingly inedible plant parts form a small but important component of the horse’s natural diet.

Barks leaves and branches also contain:

  • proanthrocyanadins, flavonoids,
  • fibre that slow the metabolism of grass sugars and helps level out the insulin response.
  • contain mucilaginous compounds that help line the stomach and intestinal linings.
  • Pectins that improve elasticity of hooves

DISCLAIMER: Hira Laboratories will not be held responsible for the use or misuse of any products listed. We recommend that either a qualified herbalist or your animal professional carry out diagnosis and subsequent treatment. Herbal remedies must not be given not be taken in conjunction with other medication with out consulting a medical professional.

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