Why Is Your Horse Eating Bark & What to do?
Eating bark regularly can do long-term damage to a horse. For example, the wood splinters can be responsible for perforating the stomach or bowels of a horse, which not only causes a lot of pain but can cause other detrimental health consequences as well. Besides that, eating bark can also cause mouth problems to arise for horses. Not to mention the possible damage that can arise to the trees in your neighborhood! Yet, it’s still the case that many horses seem to enjoy munching on bark every once in a while. If you have noticed such behavior with your horse, keep reading to find out what the possible causes could be. Afterward, we’ll touch on the different ways you could attempt to deal with this problem if you think it’s necessary!
First and foremost, sometimes horses just like to chew on bark and wood in general out of sheer boredom. So, it doesn’t necessarily have to mean that something is wrong with your horse when they like to eat bark from time to time. Sometimes, when horses have nothing to do, so to speak, they will look for different ways to occupy themselves. Then, they will start chewing on different things, such as trees, resulting in them eating bark.
Besides boredom, horses can sometimes also seek comfort in wood or bark when they’re feeling lonely and frustrated. Consequently, you could say that eating bark is some sort of a coping mechanism for certain horses. Nonetheless, you must catch this early on to avoid a bark eating habit from developing.
Mineral and/or vitamin deficiency
Furthermore, when you notice your horse chewing on bark on various occasions, this could also mean that they’re not consuming enough minerals and/or vitamins. The horse at hand will then try eating foreign things in an attempt to compensate for this deficiency, for example by eating bark. When this is the case, it could be a wise idea to consult a vet. That is to say, a vet can do the necessary bloodwork in order to find out if your horse is in fact dealing with any kind of nutritional deficiency.
Moreover, sometimes it can be possible that certain health problems underlying the bark problem. For example, your horse may be struggling with a stomach ulcer. This can cause them a lot of pain and discomfort and it’s not that uncommon for horses to start eating bark to relieve the pain in this aspect!
Not enough hay or grass around
Lastly, you also need to make sure that your horse has enough access to hay or grass at all times. Namely, horses have a natural need to chew. By placing hay or grass near your horse, you’ll basically guarantee that they can satisfy this need whenever they want. Consequently, when there’s not enough hay or grass around, your horse will start to look for other ways to satisfy their need to chew and it’s in that scenario, that bark looks like an attractive option.
What to do?
Take away the cause
When your horse eats bark out of boredom, you’ll need to make sure that your horse’s day is as packed and varied as possible. Make sure that your horse always has something to do! This can range from taking your horse for a ride every now and then to letting them interact with other horses frequently.
When there’s talk of a nutritional deficiency, you’ll need to discuss with your vet what needs to happen to fix the situation. When this is the case, the logical step will probably be to change your horse’s diet to make sure that they have access to all the necessary vitamins and minerals.
The same can be said about if you were to find out that your horse has a stomach ulcer or some other health-related problem. In that scenario, it’s also always a good idea to discuss the required treatment with your vet!
Finally, make sure that there’s always enough hay or grass near your horse. This way, they will be less likely to start eating bark to satisfy their natural chewing need.
Make the bark less appealing
Moreover, a rather unconventional approach you can take is to make the bark less appealing. For example, you could try wrapping the tree at hand in plastic to make sure that your horse won’t be able to reach the bark as easily. Another solution you could try is to spray some sort of bad-smelling spray on the wood. This will make it less attractive for a horse to start eating the bark!
Whichever way you choose to look at it, you’ll need to get to the root of the bark eating problem if you want your horse to get rid of this harmful habit. And remember: the earlier you catch this problem, the easier it will be to fix it!