Everybody has a bad habit they need to break

By Heather Hilbrands, DVM
Casselton Veterinary Service Inc., Casselton, N.D.

Nearly everyone has a bad habit they should break. For instance, I love candy, and I have absolutely no self control and will eat it all until it’s gone. Some people chew their nails, some people buy too many pairs of shoes (I am guilty of that one, too), or some people may swear too much. Humans aren’t perfect and neither are horses. Horses can have bad habits, too. In the next few months, we will talk about a few bad habits that horses can develop and how we can help break the bad habits.

Wood chewing is a common vice in horses that are stabled. These horses will chew on wood fences, boards and posts, sometimes doing significant damage to those structures. Soft woods like pine, aspen, fir, and plywood seem to be more enticing to horses. This bad habit could injure the horse as well.

Splinters could occur in the mouth, faster wearing of the teeth could occur, and if this habit is persistent and consistent, it can reduce the amount of time the horse is actually eating and drinking.

The cause of this bad habit can be multiple. Boredom, insufficient chewing in current diet (not enough forage/hay and fiber), and liking the taste of wood are a few causes. Horses that are on a pellet only diet or on a diet with a high amount of grain may more prone to developing this condition, also.

Horse owners can try a few things to help reduce or even stop this behavior in their horses. Horse owners can decrease the amount/time of confinement, increase activity, increase companionship, feed less pellets and grain, and add more forage/hay to diet. As with any bad habit, a little distraction and redirection may quell the bad behavior.

Dr. Heather Hilbrands, DVM, grew up in Milbank, S.D., and received an animal sciene degree from South Dakota State University. She graduated from veterinary school at Iowa State University in 2006. She practiced large and small animal veterinary medicine in South Dakota prior to coming to North Dakota. She now practices at Casselton Veterinary Service, Inc. in Casselton, N.D.