Have you ever seen your horse consume dirt out in the field and wonder what the heck? You are not sure whether to be worried and call the veterinarian or go about your business. Eating dirt is called Geophagia, and it can be a good and bad thing for horses. Here are some reasons why some horses may eat dirt.
To help keep teeth smooth
The particles in dirt can help file sharp points on the horse’s teeth. Horse’s that are kept in stalls may need their teeth floated more often than horses housed in a pasture because they do not have dirt to chew on.
To help with digestion
The gastrointestinal system is home to many microbes that help break down the fiber in forage for digestion. Dirt also contains these microbes as well as the roots of plants. If horses are having a hard time digesting their food, they will eat dirt for help. Comparable to us adding a probiotic to our diets.
For a bellyache
A horse with a stomachache from viruses, toxins, or too much sugar will forage for clay especially. Clay will absorb the bad substances in the gut and will later exit the body in manure. Like using activated charcoal in humans and dogs.
Noticing when a horse eats dirt after certain feeds may help indicate what is upsetting their stomachs.
Need for Minerals
If some horses are missing minerals in their diets such as iron, they may eat dirt. Horses that are housed in a stall full time may have a mineral deficiency and are likely to eat dirt when they are turned out to pasture.
Adding a mineral block in the pasture and stall can help supply horses with the minerals they need.
Out of hunger or thirst
Horses that have nothing else to eat in a pasture will eat dirt. They will also eat dirt if they are thirsty or dehydrated because of the water and salt found in the dirt. This can be an extremely dangerous thing if a horse consumes too much dirt it can lead to impaction in the intestinal tract and colic.
Ensure the horse has plenty of hay or grass to eat and always having access to clean, freshwater is vital to their health. Dehydration and colic are both dangerous and serious, possibly leading to death if not treated.
Horses that are bored will eat dirt to keep their mind busy. Horses are naturally supposed to spend most of their days foraging for food, keeping their mind and stomach full. A horse housed alone with nothing to do will be likely to turn to dirt for the company.
Horses are natural herd animals and having a horse housed with another horse can help elevate the boredom as well as keeping a consistent exercise program.
If your horse is eating dirt, they may be trying to tell you something and most have a simple solution. Have you ever seen your horse eat dirt?
Have you ever wondered why it is that horses will chew wood? Find out the answer here on iHeartHorses.com.