5 Reasons Horses Eat Dirt | What You Should (or Shouldn’t) Do About It

Last Updated on March 11, 2022 by Allison Price

Sometimes I see my horse digging in the dirt in his paddock or pasture. Do I need to be concerned? It can be distressing to notice that your horse is interested in dirt, especially if you don’t know why. What is the normal behavior of horses? Is it likely to cause colic or digestive problems? Do I let him eat dirt? The short answer to this question is yes. Your horse is best friend when you use dirt, but only in moderation. Here’s why.

Why is my horse eating dirt?

Dirt is an essential part of the horse’s diet. Dirt is rich in minerals and beneficial microbes, which can be helpful for horses’ digestion. Horses, whether in the wild or in our pastures, have been eating dirt for thousands of years. This common phenomenon has even been given a name: geophagia.

Reasons Horses Eat Dirt

These are the five main reasons horses eat dirt. Here’s why you shouldn’t be (or in certain cases, why you should).

1. Trace Minerals are a Must

Horses require a balanced diet that includes all the natural minerals they need. Many horses aren’t getting the minerals they require due to today’s man-made and controlled feeding regimes. This can lead to serious health problems. This can lead to brittle hooves and a dull, lifeless coat as well as weight loss and reduced bone strength.

Dirt can provide many of the minerals that horses are deficient in through their diet. Knowing this, your horse will realize that a little dirt can be beneficial for him. Horses can sometimes eat whole tonnes of dirt. This indicates a deficiency in one or more trace minerals. It can be corrected by changing the feed or adding a balanced mineral supplement such as Redmond Rocknatural licks or Redmond Rock crushed loose minerals.

2. Stomach Upset

Horses can sometimes experience stomach problems. Horses may experience stomach trouble if they have eaten old or decayed food, experienced a change in their diet, or if they have consumed a noxious weed.

Clay or dirt is a natural remedy for a shaky stomach. Clay balances pH, binds toxins and soothes the stomach. Clay aids digestion, eases gas, aids in hydration and stops diarrhea.

Horses can have natural bentonite clay like Redmond Daily Gold which provides both digestive support as well as the 68 trace minerals they need.

3. Seeking Beneficial Bacteria

The bacteria found in horse feed and dirt aids horses’ digestion. These beneficial bugs balance the intestinal pH, bind and neutralize toxic substances, and stop harmful bacteria from growing.

Microbes that are good for digestion also convert food into energy and fatty acid. These microbes are essential to prevent harmful organisms from taking over and causing problems in the digestive system.

Daily Gold bentonite for horses clay also helps to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in your gut

4. Grinding down Teeth

Horses’ teeth grow all through their lives. A horse with a “long tooth” is considered to be old.

The natural way to grind teeth is to eat insoluble and coarse particles of dirt or grit. This prevents them from becoming too long, jagged or sharp. Horses may require flotation or filing by a veterinarian if they are not allowed to grind their teeth naturally.

5. Hunger or Boredom

Horses will eat dirt when they are hungry, bored, or they don’t have enough food. Dirt is not recommended for horses. Too much dirt can lead to sand colic, compaction, digestive problems, and even compaction.

Your horse should have access to pasture whenever possible. To avoid boredom or hunger in your horse, make sure your horse is always able to access forage when he’s stabled or paddocked.

Regular checks of your horse’s water intake, manure composition, and attitude will help you determine if he is happy with his current diet.

Redmond Loose minerals for horses to resolve mineral deficiencies

Many soils are depleted of vital nutrients and minerals due to intensive farming. This means that the soils from which crops are grown, as well as those we feed to our animals, are deficient.

Redmond Daily Gold and Redmond Rock play an important part in providing horses with the necessary trace minerals that are missing from many forages. Redmond Rock sea salt licks and Redmond Rock Crushed loose mineral minerals provide the full complement of 60 trace minerals that your horse requires to be in a healthy mineral balance. Daily Gold bentonite clay provides the same.

Allison Price
Allison Price

I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!