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Why Do Horses Chew Wood?

by Dani Buckley
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Horses that start chewing on wood can become a frustrating behavior if nothing is done about it. Wood chewing can put a major dent in fencing and stalls. So why do horses suddenly start chewing on wood? Keep reading for the answer and what to do about it.

Cause: Boredom

A bored horse is not a happy horse. In the wild, horses are free to roam wherever these please, from lush fields to lakes and streams. A horse that is cooped up in a stall the majority of the time may start chewing on the wood in the barn to just find something to do.

Solution: Fill downtime or change routine

If you feel that your horse started chewing on wood because they are spending too much time by themselves in a stall, try to incorporate more pasture time for them. Horse toys can help too and the cheapest horse toy is a plastic milk jug and a rope!

why do horses chew wood?

Cause: Not enough forage

Let’s face it, in an ideal horse-ruled world, stalls would not be a thing, nor would fences and gates. Horses spend most of their time foraging for their food. If their forage or hay supply is taken or limited, a hungry horse may turn toward chewing on a wood fence for a snack to get them by until their next meal.

Solution: Increase forage

This solution is easy, try increasing the amount of hay. If your horse needs to go on a diet, try using a slow feeder to help make your horse think they are still receiving the same amount.

Cause: Poor quality of forage

If a horse is housed in a pasture that is lacking good quality forage, they may start chewing on the wood fences. But this is a dangerous habit that can directly put their health at risk if splinters get lodged in their teeth and gums. 

why do horses chew wood?

Solution: Supplement

If the pasture has poor quality grass, try supplementing with good quality hay and rotate pastures. Keep an eye on how the grass looks. If the pasture is mostly weeds, your horse needs more to munch on.

Cause: Low fiber

If a horse doesn’t have enough fiber in their diet, they may start chewing on wood. This goes back to poor quality in the feed. Remember, a horse that chews wood is not viewed the same as cribbing. Cribbing, which is formally referred to as aerophagia, is an obsessive-compulsive disorder. And this behavior is only seen in domesticated horses.

Solution: Supplement/add fiber

Talk with your veterinarian about your horse’s diet and see if the cause is due to not enough fiber in their diet. If it is, adding a supplement such as hay cubs can help.

Cause: Learned behavior

Monkey see – monkey do, horses do this too. Unfortunately, your horse may have learned how to chew wood from their pasture pal and thought it was a pretty neat idea. But, don’t worry, this is a naughty horse behavior that can be fixed.

why do horses chew wood

Solution: Separate or help initial wood chewer

The best way to deal with horse peer pressure is to find the root of the problem. If you can find out why your horse’s pal is chewing wood and fix the problem, your horse may stop chewing it as well. If not, separation could be the answer.

As soon as you notice your horse starts chewing on wood, it is important to find the cause of the problem as soon as possible and start on the solution. Have you had a wood chewer in your barn? If so, how did you fix the problem?

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