Horse Chewing And Horse Boredom

I have an eight-year-old mustang mare, who was raised domestic. She bites or chews my pipe corrals. She also licks the panels. She usually does this after eating something but will do it at any time.�� In the first two years, she was in a regular steel panel corral and did not do this. I since added brown-coated six-bar panels and now the panels are rusting. Why does she do this’

Horse Journal Response

She sounds bored. You can, of course, put something unappealing on the pipes, like soap or a horse bandage-tearing deterrent hot-pepper spray. Additional hay and more exercise (as in more work and/or more frequent exercise) also are big helps. Turnout in a larger field, too, would be a likely help, although in this day and age that’s rarely possible. Finally, you might want to consider a playmate, even a goat or small pony, if that’s possible, to turn out with her.

I’m sure I’m not telling you something you haven’t already thought about, but it’s a pretty tough problem to break. If she were actually cribbing, a strap would probably do it. But licking and chewing are usually boredom-related problems. I’d start with the soapy spray and work from there. Let us know how it goes.

Enterolith Cause

I have two Appaloosa mares who are mother and daughter. The mother is now 20 and had surgery for enterolith removal 10 years ago and her 12-year-old daughter just had surgery to remove three enteroliths. The vets say it is not hereditary and typically occurs in horses from California that eat more than 50% alfalfa. Prior to the surgery their diets consisted of mainly eastern Washington orchard grass hay with a small amount of Alfalfa. They were on a daily wormer and 2.5 pounds of Nutrena Prime pellets, although over the past 10 years they were fed other brands of pelleted feed. They only had fresh grass in the spring and summer. Now I am feeding them grass hay, and they get daily grazing, 2 pounds of rolled oats, 2 cups of apple cider vinegar, Ration Plus, 2 tablespoons loose salt, and 4 oz. of a regional vitamin/mineral supplement called Northwest Horse Supplement. I split the oats between two feedings and mix in salt, the vinegar, and a few tablespoons of molasses. Will I prevent enteroliths’

Horse Journal Response

You can’t really rule out a genetic factor entirely since it seems to run in both breeds and within families sometimes. Exactly what the genetic factor might be isn’t immediately obvious but could be related to something like gut motility.

For an enterolith to form, there first has to be a ”nidus,” some foreign body in the intestinal tract for it to begin to form around. What happens next is that minerals present in the intestinal fluid precipitate out to form struvite, ammonium magnesium phosphate, if the pH is alkaline. It dissolves readily in acid pH.

High alfalfa diets are a risk factor and provide the ammonium (bacterial fermentation of excess protein that reaches the large bowel), and are alkalinizing. Alfalfa from some areas is high in magnesium too, and alfalfa has lower levels of non digestible fiber than other hays. Enterolith formation is less common in horses that are also being fed grain, since grain tends to lower the pH of the intestines as well. It has been suggested that local water may play a role too (alkaline water, mineral density).

No treatment or management practice has been proven to prevent enteroliths — or to cause them either for that matter. All the risk factors identified so far have been found by examining case records retrospectively. Until there is an experimental model that can reliably produce enteroliths, we won’t know for sure which prevention methods are best. That said, recurrence rate is fairly low when the current recommended management changes are used. 

You obviously have researched enteroliths well and are following the recommendations of:

• Grain feeding

• Grazing (minerals greatly diluted by the water in grass)

• Avoid alfalfa

• Acidify the gut. 

The Restore product from Biovance is a glutamic acid and corn fermentation products based prebiotic. It is expensive ($3 to $4.50 per day), but it’s very well researched and proven to reduce the pH of the intestinal trace to below 6.5. It’s also well proven to improve digestibility so you could probably recover some of the cost in reduced feeding.

 Otherwise, you could fine tune your current program by making sure you avoid excess mineral feeding. Keeping them on grass as the major part of the diet when you can is a good approach. Make sure their total protein intake from all sources isn’t excessive (remembering that young grasses are often over 20% protein on a dry matter basis so you can go with low protein hay), and it would also be a good idea to actually have your hay and pasture analyzed so you can make sure you are supplementing only the minerals they actually need. A very fibrous (late in the growth stage) cutting of hay would be ideal with the grazing since low levels of undigestible dry matter in the intestinal tract have also been identified in horses with enteroliths.

Copper Sulfate

I loved your article on Fix Common Problems (July 2007), but I’m concerned about using copper sulfate in my water tank. Is there a different type I should buy’

Horse Journal Response

Copper is an important trace mineral that is commonly in short supply in natural equine feedstuffs. Copper sulfate is the purified version of naturally occurring copper in soils. Copper sulfate actually has a skin irritation index of zero, i.e. not at all irritating to skin, but it will be irritating/damaging to eyes or mucus membranes in the concentrated form so handling precautions are probably geared at avoiding getting it onto your hands and into your eyes or mouth from there. Any concentrated mineral, including plain salt, is irritating to eyes and mouth in concentrated form. Copper sulfate is commonly used in many feeds and supplements; it’s not a poison.

Beet Pulp:Wheat Bran Ratio

Can you remind me of the beet pulp to wheat bran ratio that keeps the calcium to phosphorus ration correct’

Horse Journal Response

Two parts beet pulp to one part wheat bran, by weight, not volume. Meaning, 1 pound wheat barn for every two pounds beet pulp. This works out to a calcium:phosphorus ration of 1.5:1, which is what you want in the horse’s overall diet for these major minerals.

What did you think of this article?

Thank you for your feedback!