Why does my Horse Eat Dirt?
Jul 28, 2011
My thoroughbred gelding has been eating dirt lately. Is this normal? Should I be concerned? Nothing has changed with his diet or water intake. He has a salt block but doesn't use it. A few of the other horses at our barn have been eating dirt also. Any info would be greatly appreciated! - Jodi
If your horse is turned out without much pasture, he may root on the ground for something to eat and end up ingesting dirt. The dirt itself will not harm your horse; however, if he consumes a large amount of sandy soil over time he could develop sand colic. This occurs most commonly in horses that are fed hay on sandy terrain. Sand is heavy and does not pass easily through the intestinal tract. If enough accumulates over time it can cause an impaction and your horse will be painful and exhibit signs of colic.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to prevent this from happening. When your horse is turned out, try feeding his hay in a large tub instead of directly on the ground. You can also feed psyllium supplements to your horse to prevent sand colic. Sand Clear and Sand Free are just a few of many psyllium products that you can easily obtain through your local vet supply catalog or feed store. Most of these supplements are fed for one week out of the month and will help your horse pass sand through their digestive tract. You can have a manure sample tested for the presence of sand. At Conley and Koontz Equine Hospital, we include the test for sand with all Fecal Egg Count labwork.
Some horses may eat dirt in an effort to ingest salt or other minerals. Salt intake is very important, especially during the summer, as it helps increase your horses' water intake. Commercial grains are supplemented and should give your horse the proper amounts of vitamins and minerals, but it is still wise to offer a supplement. There are several ways to offer salt to your horse. Many horses will lick a salt or mineral block, but for those that won't, loose salt can be given. A few cups of loose salt can be put in a bucket for your horse to eat at will, or you can salt his hay just like you would salt your dinner. Sprinkle a liberal amount of salt on his ration of hay every day.
Dr. Bethany Couture