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At Horsezone we hear about all sorts of interesting equine behaviour - one subscriber recently expressed concern over her older horse (late teens), who looks perfectly healthy, but has taken up the habit of eating his paddock mate's manure! She wondered if it was something he was missing from his diet, so we decided to ask Peter Pryde of Pryde's EasiFeed about this unsavoury behaviour and what causes it.
When an animal eats its own manure this is known as coprophagia and it is a perfectly normal behaviour for horses if it happens infrequently. From when they are very young foals, horses will eat manure to populate their hindgut with the beneficial bacteria they need to ferment fibre and they may also eat manure to take advantage of the rich source of B-vitamins and vitamin K that are found in manure.
You may notice older horses doing it more frequently because they do lose some of their ability to ferment fibre in the hindgut as they age and also have higher dietary requirements for B-group vitamins, so they may either be wanting to try and populate their gut with more beneficial bacteria or they may be seeking out the b-vitamins.
If your horse is eating manure and you are concerned, keep a diary of how often you see your horse doing it. If it is consistently happening, more frequently than once or twice a week, check to make sure your horse has access to ample hay or pasture, that they are on a well balanced diet that contains plenty of B-group vitamins and give them free access to a salt lick. If you feel they need extra fibre in their diet you can use Pryde's EasiFibre which is great for older horses.
If you have all of these things in place and the behaviour still happens more frequently than you are comfortable with, you may like to call your vet to discuss having your horses general health checked.