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Scottie has developed a new habit, eating his straw bed! I come down in the morning and you can see great holes, like a large dog has been making a bed in there, where he has been eating through his bed. So now I am researching how to stop a horse eating their straw bed.
Why shouldn’t horses eat straw?
While straw may look very similar to hay, due to subtle differences, if a horse eats a lot of straw this can lead to colic and blockages in the digestive system.
Not only this, but a horse eating their bed means you need to spend extra money on bedding. If they are eating the bed bare, they also risk hurting themselves if they decide to lay down or roll on the floor.
One of my biggest issues with Scottie eating his straw bed is that our straw can be quite dusty and it is aggravating his cough. While his cough is ok when he doesn’t eat the straw, when he has been eating it he can sound awful.
4 quick tricks to stop your horse eating their straw bed
If your horse has only just started eating their straw bed, then there are 4 quick things you can hopefully try to battle your horses new eating habit!
- Plenty of Hay
Make sure your horse has access to plenty of hay. Many horses turn to eating their bed because they have run out of hay and are hungry. Remember horses shouldn’t be left without food for long periods of time (more than an hour).
If you are already giving your horse plenty of hay, consider using smaller holed nets and/or multiple haynets around the stable to try and slow down how quickly they are eating the hay. This will make the hay last longer and hopefully stop them from snacking on their bed!
- More Turnout and/or Exercise
Horses spend about 16 hours of the day eating. If the last 8 hours of the day are not filled with; exercise, play or social time, horses can quickly turn to eating as a way to relieve boredom.
If possibly turn your horse out more and give them more time out of the stable. Hopefully this will keep them occupied enough to not feel the need to comfort eat.
- Mix in Clean with the Dirty
When you are mucking out the stable and putting fresh straw in, try mixing it in with the dirty straw in the stable. This is enough to put a lot of horses off eating the clean, fresh straw.
- Change Bedding
If you can do so, consider changing your horses bedding to something less appealing. Such as shavings or woodchip. However, these other bedding types can be more harmful if your horse eats these too! So keep an eye out.
Tips for the more persistent horse
If your horse has taken a liking to their bedding, the quick fixes may not be enough! Despite my best efforts at mixing the dirty in with the clean, all day turnout and having hay left over every morning, Scottie is still snacking on his bed! So I have been researching some more creative ways to nip this in the bud.
Deterring Straw Eating
Virtually all of these other tips involve mixing something into your horses bed to discourage them from eating it. Some of the most well used methods are spraying watered down malt vinegar or watered down Jeyes fluid (disinfectant) onto the horses bed. While most horses won’t touch a bed sprayed with Jeyes fluid, some greedy guts will keep eating! So a strong mix of Malt Vinegar would be a safer option for these horses.
Carbolic Powder, which is often used to absorb the smell of ammonia on the floor of the bed, can also be mixed into the horses bed and is usually enough to discourage horses from eating their straw bed. Also since you can buy equine specific products for stables, it should also be fairly safe to use.
Apparently Lavender can put horses off their food, which is why many bedding companies include it in their beddings. So spraying a diluted lavender oil onto your horses bed could be enough to put them off snacking. Lavender is also known for its calming properties too.
Encouraging Hay Eating
As well as making the straw less appealing for your horse, you can also make their hay more appealing. If you can, try putting the hay on the floor or in a hay bar. This makes it easier for the horse to get to. Scottie has been known to eat his bed and not touch his hay if he has decided the hay is harder to eat than the straw. I can guarantee that if I double net his hay when he is on straw he will eat more straw than hay!
Finally you can look into finding better quality hay for your horse. The better quality the hay, the more palatable it is likely to be. Therefore the horse should want to eat the hay rather than the straw.
I am going to start trying watered down malt vinegar sprayed on Scottie’s bed to try and discourage him from eating his straw bed. This seems like one of the safest and cheapest options and fingers crossed it will be enough to put him off his snacking!
Do you have any more tips to stop horses from eating their bed?