Why Do Horses Chew On Wood? Weird Horse Habits Revealed!

Have you ever seen a horse behaving strangely, and wondered why do horses chew on wood and other objects? There can be a number of reasons why horses pick up this odd habit.

Let’s find out why do horses chew on wood, and find out if it is something we should be worried about!

Why Do Horses Chew On Wood?

There are several reasons why a horse might be tempted to chew on wood, and all of them indicate some sort of problem. In the wild, a horse may nibble on branches and tree trunks to get essential nutrients, but this should not be necessary for a domesticated horse. So, if your horse is chewing wood, what is the reason?

  • Boredom

One of the most common reasons why horses chew on wood is that they are bored! Horses are highly intelligent animals that need a lot of mental stimulation. They like to eat, play, investigate, communicate, and observe, but when we change the way our horses live we can limit their opportunity to carry out these activities.

Why Do Horses Chew On Wood - Boredom

A bored horse will quickly develop behavioral abnormalities, which may manifest in unusual ways. One common problem is persistent chewing of wood and other objects. The horse is simply trying to find a way to relieve stress and provide some mental stimulation.

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Inadequate Roughage – Why Do Horses Chew On Wood

Horses will also chew on wood as a way to increase the amount of roughage in their diet. The digestive horse is designed to process food that is almost entirely made up of grasses and hay. If the horse does not get enough roughage, he will try to compensate for this by chewing on wood.

This can be a particular problem in the winter, as the horse relies on roughage not only for food but also for warmth. When grass and hay are digested, they produce heat inside the body – like a very efficient central heating system! When a horse is not fed enough grass or hay, he will not only feel hungry but also feel cold.

  • Inadequate Nutrition

A lack of nutrients in the diet can lead to unusual cravings, which the horse may attempt to satisfy by chewing on wood. Wood is neither easily digestible or nutritious for the horse, especially if he is chewing treated timber in the barn. So although wild horses might chew on bark to get essential nutrients, this is not the solution for your domesticated horse!

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  • Habit

Horses are nosey and inquisitive creatures, and will copy each other! A horse may chew on wood simply because it has always done so, and other horses in the herd may mimic this behavior.

Why Do Horses Chew On Wood Fences?

Most horses chew on wood when they are confined, through boredom and a lack of mental stimulation. However, you may see horses in the field chewing on wood fences.

Although being turned out in a field is less stressful for a horse, they can still become bored and suffer from behavioral problems. Have a look around your field – has your horse run out of areas to explore, graze, and play? Does he have enough room to roam around and keep him interested?

It is very unusual to find a wild or feral horse that chews on wood fences, and this is a problem we have created by confining our domesticated horses. For this reason, it is essential that we provide as much environmental enrichment as possible, to prevent stress and boredom.

Should You Stop Your Horse From Chewing On Wood?

If a horse intermittently has a nibble on wood, it is not a huge problem, although it can be annoying if he is destroying your stable or barn! But if this is a regular habit or your horse spends many hours each day chewing wood, it can be a good idea to try and prevent it from happening.

To stop a horse from chewing wood, you need to eliminate the initial reason he is carrying out this behavior, as well as help him to break the habit.

So, if he is bored, provide mental stimulation in the form of treat balls and toys. Roughage and nutritional imbalances should also be addressed. You can also use barriers and unpleasant-tasting creams to prevent the horse from chewing wood.

Why Do Horses Chew On Wood Summary

So, as we have learned, horses chew on wood for several reasons. It may be because the horse is bored, or he is not receiving enough roughage or nutrition in his diet. Excessive chewing of wood can cause dental problems as well as risk splinters in the horse’s mouth, so it is a good idea to discourage this behavior as well as rectify the initial cause.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on why do horses chew on wood! Does your horse regularly destroy wooden fence posts and stable doors? Or maybe you’ve managed to break the habit and stop your horse from chewing on wood? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!

FAQ’s

Why Has My Horse Started Chewing Wood?

If chewing wood is a new habit that your horse has developed, look to see if there any recent changes in routine or feeding that may have triggered it. This could be a reduction in roughage, or more time spent in the stable. He may be stressed, if a stable-mate has recently moved away or his daily routine has changed.

What Are Horses Lacking When They Chew Wood?

Horses that chew wood are normally lacking in roughage or essential nutrients. This can be addressed by feeding the recommended amount of a complete feed or balancer every day. Hay should be fed in a small-holed net or slow feeder to make the daily rations last for longer.

How Do I Get My Horse To Stop Chewing?

If you have addressed the initial reason why the horse is chewing wood, you can use barrier creams that have a bitter taste to stop him from chewing. A strand of electric wire can be used to prevent him accessing fence rails. Metal cladding can be placed along barn doors to stop unwanted wood chewing.