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Horse Articles :: Horse Chewing Wood

Horse Chewing Wood Fencing

Wood chewing not only damages stables and fencing, it can also be bad for the horse's health. Wood splinters can get stuck in the gums or teeth. If swallowed, the splinters can damage the stomach or intestines, or cause impaction colic. Fortunately, the habit of wood chewing is usually not difficult to correct and the short term health risks are low in most cases.

The first step is to confirm that the problem is really wood chewing and not the more serious issue of cribbing. In wood chewing, the horse is nibbling on the wood. Cribbing is completely different; the horse does not eat the wood but instead grabs the wood with its front teeth, arches its neck and then sucks in air. As the two activities are very different, observation can confirm which problem your horse has. Alternatively, examination of the wood should show if it has been damaged by nibbling or damaged simply by a firm bite.

The most common cause of wood chewing is boredom. Horses which are left in their boxes most of the day with nothing to do simply do not have enough mental stimulation, so they start chewing on wood to occupy themselves. Another cause is stress or nervousness; just as some people chew their fingernails or pencils when they are stressed, a nervous horse confined to its box with nowhere to direct its nervous energy may start chewing on wood to distract itself. The third possible cause of wood chewing in nutritional deficiencies; if the horse's food does not contain all the minerals they need they will start to chew on other items (such as wood or earth) in an attempt to obtain the missing minerals.

The first step in fixing the problem is to address the underlying cause. Since it is not always possible to know which of the three possible causes is the problem, the easiest solution is to address all three. Provide the horse with as much pasture time as possible, as this provides mental stimulation and also an outlet for nervous energy. Give it chewy food such as grass and hay, which will occupy it and meet its natural desire to chew better than fast foods such as grain or musli. Companion horses, exercise and an interesting environment all help. In case the problem is nutritional, ensure that it has good access to a salt lick and a mineral stone. Try to identify anything which may be causing the horse stress (e.g. bullying by another horse) and address the issue.

With the above steps, one should quickly see a reduction in wood chewing activity. Unfortunately, once a horse has been chewing wood for some time, it becomes a habit and continues even after the original cause is removed. Consequently, in addition to fixing the habit, one also needs to take steps to break the habit.

One stops the habit by making it unpleasant or impossible for the horse to chew wood. There are a number of products which are designed to taste terrible which one can paint onto wood surfaces, so the horse does not want to chew on them. For fencing, adding an electric fence wire (under current) to the top of the rails will keep the horse from chewing them. Within the stall, one can place metal strips onto the top of wood (e.g. on top of wooden stall doors).

It is important to do both these steps: address the cause and discourage the activity. If one treats the cause (e.g. boredom) but not the behavior (e.g. with unpleasant tasting paint) the habit may diminish but is unlikely to stop. Alternatively, treating the behavior (with unpleasant paint) but not the cause may stop the horse from chewing wood but the horse may then develop a different behavioral problem in response to the continuing underlying problem.

Author Resource:-> Doug Stewart is the author of











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