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Animal Care Library

Use our Animal Care Library for quick, easy access to our most common animal care problems. Use our Animal Care Library for quick, easy access to our most common animal care problems. Use our Animal Care Library for quick, easy access to our most common animal care problems.

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Chewing And Biting Habits Species: Horses       Categories: behavioural

Chewing rails, feeders and doors is a common habit in horses confined to stables and yards when fed mainly on concentrate diets. Horses at pasture will occasionally chew rails and trees, partularly during wet or cold weather.

Many horses will chew and may ring bark young trees in early spring, presumably because the sweet juicy sap is flowing, or pasture is lush and succulent with a lower fibre content. it is also possible that the high soluble starch intake on lush pasture leads to a hindgut overload and fermentation with acid production, which irratates the gut, causing the horse to seek fibre to eat.

Most horses prefer to chew soft woods, including treated pine rails, plywood and particleboard. Observations indicate that a stabled horse spends an average of 8 minutes per day chewing stall fixtures. Although most of the wood chewed is not swallowed, plinters of wood may lodge between the teeth or lacerate the gums or tongue.

Wood chewing also wears away the front edges of the upper and lower incisor teeth. A hosre confined to an outside steel fenced yard may develop a habit of licking the pipes, wearing off the paint and exposing the metal, which then rusts.

Causes of chewing habits

Some authorities consider a lack of phosphorus, fibre or protein in the diet may result in an urge to eat wood. Feeding a low-fibre pellet or sweet-feed based ration also increases the risk in a stabled horse. In this case, less chewing is required to consume the smaller meal, which is quickly eaten, leaving more leisure time for the horse to become bored between feeds.

Remedies for chewing habits

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