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Why does my horse chew wood?

As a horse owner, you may notice sizeable chunks of your fence missing when your horses are free to graze in their paddock and you may also be surprised to learn that it is in fact your own horse making the damage!

To humans, this makes little sense. Why would your horse opt for a hard, rough (and probably tasteless!) fence when there’s a large patch of juicy green grass or hay to graze on?

This kind of equestrian behaviour has often been seen as a mystery, but there are a few tell-tale signs that signal exactly why your horse is chewing wood and also how to prevent it causing damage to their health:

Frustration and Boredom

One of the main reasons why your horse may be chewing wood is because they aren’t being stimulated enough within their environment.

If your horse is spending the majority of its time in a small paddock with a lack of distractions in the surrounding environment, they may become frustrated or bored and lead to fence-nibbling as a result.

Windsucking Habits

Another reason why your horse may have developed a taste for wood is simply that they’re used to it, or they’re imitating a behaviour called ‘windsucking’.

Windsucking is a common habit for horses to have and is learned by their peers whilst in the stable. It happens when the horse grabs a solid object (like a fence, for example!) and pulls against it with their teeth. This creates a gap in the fence and allows the horse to suck in air through it.

If your horse is a frequent windsucker, this may cause harm to their health as it can lead to stomach acidity. Not only can this harm their internal organs, but it can also lead to painful equine ulcers.

Nutrient and Vitamin Deficiency

Occasionally, horses can suffer from vitamin deficiency; one of the symptoms of which being pica – a strong desire for tasting strange foods.

Despite not being the most common reason for a horse chewing wood, it’s important to consult your vet if you suspect that this is the cause for your pet’s behaviour.

How Can Chewing Wood Harm My Horses’ Health?

Along with being extremely problematic for the owner replacing the fence, chewing wood can cause severe problems with your horses’ health.

Wooden fences often create splinters. These tiny shards of wood can cause injuries within your horses’ mouth and if they become infected, can cause infections in your horses’ teeth and gums.

Once the wood has been ingested, the material can cause harm to your pets’ digestive system. If a large amount of wood builds up within the gut, a dangerous case of colic could be a result.

As you can see, there are a number of reasons why your horse is chewing on wood instead of the hay you provide. However, windsucking and fence-chewing can cause harm to your horse as well as damage the environment, so consulting your equine vet is essential if you notice an increase in the behaviour.

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