Nibbling Horse

I own a three-year-old Thoroughbred gelding. He’s very pleasant and willing under saddle, but his ground manners have much to be desired. He’s incredibly oral. He loves to nibble at things and gently grab and take hold of whatever he can reach. He’s lately begun throwing his head up and down ? even under saddle. When trying to put the bridle on, he swings his head around, trying to nibble at you and, it seems, to play. I don’t want to hit him, and stern words don’t work. I’m glad he has a personality, but this is too much. What can I do’

Performance Editor John Strassburger responds:
Given your horse’s young age, we’d strongly recommend calling an equine dentist or veterinarian to check his teeth, especially if you?ve never had dental work performed on him. He’s at an age when horses? teeth can change dramatically, and adding a bit can cause them discomfort. His symptoms suggest discomfort and agitation to us.

Your horse may only need basic floating, but he could also need a tooth or two extracted. He could also have wolf teeth that need to be extracted, after which he’ll be much more comfortable.

If dental work is the issue (and especially if it isn?t), you’ll need to be sure to treat your young horse with consistent discipline. it’s natural for young geldings to be oral, and most of the time it’s harmless and amusing. But set limits or boundaries ? and stick to them. Never allow him to bite you (or someone else) today then reprimand him for the same action tomorrow. you’ll just confuse him, and he’ll keep testing you, again and again. He must respect you as his leader.

For your comfort and his training, make the boundaries of his oral fixation clear to him ? every day. And don’t be afraid to immediately and appropriately reprimand him.

To further discourage him from biting or nipping, we suggest that you don’t feed him treats by hand until He’s older and more mature. Feed him treats only in his feed bin or on the ground.

Yellow Salt

My vet has advised me to never be without sulfur salt, which is yellow. This helps the horse’s immune system fight colds, etc. My animals have access to various salt blocks but, when the weather changes as it does quickly here in Pennsylviania, my animals normally go to the salt with sulfur. Why do none of the horse articles I read about salt mention sulfur’

Veterinary Editor Eleanor Kellon, VMD, responds:
We don’t talk about the mineral sulfur because animals have no dietary requirement for sulfur in mineral form. They can’t use it. Only primitive bacteria and plants can use elemental sulfur.

Higher plants, like grasses, absorb sulfur in the form of sulfate ion, which they then convert to sulfur-containing amino acids like cysteine, methionine and cystine. The horse’s requirement for sulfur is in the form of these amino acids.

We recommend offering your horse plain, white salt blocks. The red blocks are trace-mineral blocks. it’s fine to offer these blocks instead, and some horses do prefer them. However, we recommend you look for one that says, ?Formulated For Horses? on it. Otherwise, it’s a general livestock block that may not have the correct analysis for horses.

Soaking Hay

I read your August article on soaking hay for ROA (recurrent airway obstruction) horses. I started wetting my hay years ago but then quit when I heard it didn’t help.

I’m now soaking again by blasting it with the hose. If I soak the hay in a tub, how long can I leave it in there without the hay ?going bad?’ Can it be overnight for the morning feeding and during the day for the evening feeding’ Just three days of thoroughly wetting the hay with a hose I have noticed his eyes are not running as much and the coughing has been reduced.

Veterinary Editor Eleanor Kellon, VMD, responds:
Safe-soaking time depends a lot on the temperature. In summer temperatures, the sugars that leach out when you soak the hay will begin to ferment very quickly, within a hour or so. For your purposes, it would probably work to submerge your hay as soon as you get to the barn to feed, do chores like cleaning buckets, picking out stalls, etc. and by the time you are done the hay should be well soaked and ready to be fed.