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Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition

   Welcome to my forum. 

Here you will find more than 6 years of questions and my answers. It is searchable and offers a great deal of information. 

Currently, I am discontinuing new questions. This may change in the future, but in the meantime, please know that It has been a true pleasure serving you. 

Take a look at my Nutrition Library and Tips of the Month for a variety of answers on selected topics. Be sure to sign up for my monthly e-newsletter, Forage for Thought

I also have a growing number of recordings on "Teleseminars on Nutrition Topics that Concern You" as well as the new, Spotlight on Equine Nutrition Series -- printed versions of favorite teleseminars.

And finally, look for my articles in a variety of local publications and online newsletters, as well as the Horse Journal, where I am the Contributing Nutrition Editor.  


All the best,

 Dr. Getty 


Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition
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Why would a horse eat mud and chew on wood

My horse is eating mud in the same spot - she digs down in the snow to get to it. She is also chewing on some of the paddock boards. She is on a custom mineral mix that balances her hay. What would cause her to do this?

Where are you from? MN

How did you locate this forum? reading for years

Re: Why would a horse eat mud and chew on wood

That's a good question.My horses also like to eat the bark off trees during winter only.Why is that?

Re: Why would a horse eat mud and chew on wood

Kelly: Does your mare have access to plain salt, as well as mineral mix? Could she be needing plain salt and not wanting the minerals? Is the mineral only a free-choice thing, or do you feed her mineral mix in something? Mine have access to loose salt as well as a loose mineral mix. Sometimes they eat one and sometimes the other. I have one feeder with salt and mineral mixed together (about 2/3 salt) to let them have that option, too. (Okay, I might be overdoing the options!) It's weird how they chose one for a while and another for a while.

Where are you from? TN

How did you locate this forum? searching Google

Re: Why would a horse eat mud and chew on wood

Hi Kelly,

Does your horse have free access to hay? She could be doing this out of boredom. If you are only feeding a set amount of hay say in the morning and evening, try giving her a flake in the afternoon. Horses are grazers, and need to nibble all day long, on and off. Perhaps increase her exercise as well if possible? Give her something to do...if not work, then at least some hay to keep her busy. Hope this helps.


Where are you from? Ontario Canada

How did you locate this forum? Favorites

Re: Why would a horse eat mud and chew on wood

Thanks for the reply's.
Yes, she has iodized added to her feed and has a salt block also.
She has plenty of hay available to her all the time. I spread it out in the pasture to keep her moving as much as I can. She is IR/Cushings and has many bouts of laminitis so everything in her diet is very strict. I try to walk her to help her circulation issues but if she is having a bad day I do not forse it.

I would like to find a medicine for ulcers that does not have any sugars in it because she has a few signs of her ulcers returning after I dewormed her and had her on Banamine for a few days. The U Gard 2 x that I have been using the last couple days seem to have maybe increased her pulses and have her feet a little warmer again.

Where are you from? MN

How did you locate this forum? reading for years

Re: Why would a horse eat mud and chew on wood

Hello Everyone,

I'll address this answer to Kelly, since she posed the original question.

Kelly, eating mud, wood, or other forms of pica (eating non-food items) can be due to a mineral deficiency, such as magnesium, or it could be behaviorial.

But, let's first address the free-choice minerals. I do not recommend these because they are mostly salt, and most horses will consume them for their salt content. So, the best thing to do is provide a plain, white salt lick, which you mentioned you are doing.

The other problem with free-choice minerals is that horses are not able to assess their need for minerals such as iron, copper, zinc, manganese, calcium, etc. They can assess their need for certain electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium. But, the risk in offering all of these minerals free choice is overconsumption, leading to toxicities, and even deficiencies, due to interactions.

The best thing to do is provide a comprehensive multiple vitamin/mineral supplement to fill in the gaps in her diet. Since I do not know everything you are feeding, I am reluctant to suggest a product. I would prefer to consult with you privately due to the complexity of her health (e.g., cushings, insulin resistance, ulcers, etc.). To address her specific needs would be beyond the scope of this forum.

You may want to consider, however, giving her Quiessence, since this is high in magnesium and will likely assist with her behavior problem, as well as provide the extra magnesium and chromium she needs to counteract her elevated blood insulin levels.

Finally, regarding her ulcer. I do have a new product, produced by Horsetech, called Amiquell that is an excellent way to heal ulcers. It is not on my website, as yet, so I'll be happy to talk to you about it further, if you like. It does contain a small amount of glucosamine, which may or may not be a problem for your horse, depending on her bloodwork results.

There are problems with feeding ulcer medication over the long term, so it is best to treat this situation nutritionally, if possible.

Please let me know if I can assist you further.

Happy New Year!

Dr. Getty

P.S. About the tree bark chewing... It is very natural for horses to chew on trees. This is one way that they grind down their teeth, that continue to grow if not floated each year. Sometimes it is a nutrient deficiency -- often due to not enough salt in the diet -- but not always. Most of the time is it that they are simply being horses!

Where are you from? Bayfield, CO