Why does my horse eats dirt and poo!? - McDowell's Herbal Treatments

Can I have some advice please!? I often find my horse licking dirt and mud and also even sometimes eating other horse's poo! Why and what can i do about it??

Physical needs

The basic common sense rule is that if the horse is eating something unusual then it is looking for nutrition that is not getting. We need to ensure that we are meeting our horse's nutritional needs. Similar to when people are 'missing' something they can crave certain foods. Just ask a pregnant woman!

Horse's are instinctive when it comes to self-medicating. In the wild thy would walk and forage different grasses, plants and herbage. In a domestic situation thy don't have this option.

Usually this is a lack of a trace element or mineral. Firstly, providing a high quality salt lick or including salt in the feed will fill some need. 

To begin with, ensure a high-quality natural diet. This would include:

  • Speedi-beet 
  • White chaff ( wheaten chaff)
  • Rice bran ( to add extra fat) and top line
  • 1 cup crushed millet and linseed
  • Mag-A-GG (magnesium supplement)
  • Kelp - 5 grams per feed.
  • Equigesta- pre 50grams per feed – contains liquorice as a cortisol balancer , as well as parasympathetic nervous system support, and acts as a pre biotic
  • Salt (pink rock)
  • Hay (low GI) or unimproved native pasture 24/7

Often horses will eat manure to repopulate gut bacteria. This could be after traditional chemical wormers, medication, stress, over-training or a variety of other reasons. Rebuilding the gut microbiome is an important factor in balancing nutritional needs and overall health. 

Emotional needs

A second reason may be that the horse may continue with a behavior which does not involve a physical need is that it is a stress relieving habit like wind sucking or chewing your nails. Muzzling the horse unfortunately just adds to the buildup of nervous energy which the animal is trying to dissipate.

The other point to consider is disposition. Is the horse nervy or a fearful type? It is settled and calm? Is it bored or needing company. Similar to crib-biting and wind sucking, eating unusual things can be an emotional response to stress. 

If you feel it is primarily a nervous system thing we would suggest that you considered these sorts of treatments a treatment to address this. 

There have been a couple of articles which talk a lot about horses nervous systems and gives you some advice Our Nervous Tonic and may be a good place to start  in conjunction with Chamomile tea and kelp. 

If all else fails very much later I could consider using some more complex treatments to re-balance the whole metabolism but I wouldn't do that as a first step at all.

McDowells Recommendations

Kelp is a great supplement that assists in promoting healthy coat, mane and tails. Kelp is high in zinc and antioxidants which makes it a great immunity booster. Because it is in a natural form it is easily assimilated into the body. Kelp contains phosphorus iron, sodium, calcium, magnesium and potassium which makes it great for strengthening bones and assists in the treatment of arthritis and rheumatism. Kelp can also help treat inflammation and may strengthen and promote the glands. It controls the thyroid and regulates metabolism. It is a support to the nervous system and the brain, and is a terrific hormone regulator. It contains over 30 essential minerals and vitamins. Kelp is one of the highest sources of minerals and vitamins and is especially high in natural iodine together with all the cell salts that are so important to the proper function of the body and the thyroid. Kelp is also known as Bladderwrack.

Ground Millet and Linseed
Millet contains especially high levels of organic silica compounds as well as carbohydrate and many other minerals. Silica is the key to balancing the calcium scaring that occurs in conditions like ringbone. Linseed - is specific nourishment for strength and elasticity of ligaments and attachment points and is a whole feed source of Omega 3 and 6 and Linoleic acids.

Equigesta-Pre contains a combination of pure herbal powders, brewer's yeast and bentonite clay. Traditionally this combination has been used to aid and promote beneficial intestinal microorganisms. This unique blend can be used daily as an equine prebiotic to support and stimulate the growth and activity of good bacteria in the digestive system.

Mag-A-GG is a 'calming formula' with a combination of Magnesium oxide, brewer’s yeast, chamomile and dandelion specially formulated to assist in muscle relaxation and nervousness. Magnesium also activates enzymes necessary for the metabolism of carbohydrates and amino acids which lead to protein synthesis. Yeast is a rich source of B vitamins including thiamine and selenium which are essential for effective nerve transmission. Chamomile is well known and used for relaxation and calming nerves.Dandelion has been used successfully to aid in liver function and is an excellent source of Choline with vitamins A, C, D and B complex. zinc, iron and potassium.

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