How to Stop Your Horse from Chewing Things

Two Methods:Addressing Chewing Out of BoredomAddressing Chewing Because of Illness or Diet

Have you noticed damage to your fence posts or bad wear on your horse's teeth? Your horse's chewing might simply seem like a bad habit, but an uncontrollable urge to chew might be hard to control. He may have started chewing early in life as a response to stress or boredom. Now, he might just do it for the reward of chewing itself, which can release natural endorphins (hormones from the morphine family). These give your horse a natural 'high' that rewards the chewing behavior.[1] Determine why your horse chews before correcting his need to chew.

Method 1
Addressing Chewing Out of Boredom

  1. Image titled Stop Your Horse from Chewing Things Step 1
    Determine if your horse is bored. Your horse is likely to chew or crib (grab objects and suck air through them) if he is kept in a stall. This is especially true if you have an energetic horse that is stalled for several days at a time without much to watch or little social interaction. You may also notice a bored horse:[2][3]
    • Weave or pace
    • Kick the sides of the stalls
    • Show separation anxiety
    • Toss his head
    • Become aggressive
  2. Image titled Stop Your Horse from Chewing Things Step 2
    Give your horse some space. Make sure your horse can spend time in open space, such as a pasture or paddock. This also means you should give him space to wander freely on his own, exploring new pasture. Your horse should have enough room to canter or gallop, roll around, and generally burn off energy, as the mood takes him.[4]
    • Be aware that even being turned out in a small paddock is still boring for some horses. A cramped paddock, or one shared with other horses which limits mobility, can frustrate your horse leading to fence chewing.
  3. Image titled Stop Your Horse from Chewing Things Step 3
    Get your horse plenty of exercise. Ideally, you should turn your horse out onto a large area of land all the time. If you can't do this, make sure to ride your horse daily. This will give physical and mental stimulation that can distract him from chewing habits. Try to switch up the types of exercise your horse gets. For example, take him on a trail ride, do lunging exercises, ride with other horses, or work in a round pen.[5]
    • Make your horse work for his food. To do this, use a hay feeder which will slow him down by slowing the release of hay through a narrow slot. This will stimulate your horse mentally, occupy him, and make him spend more time eating.[6]
  4. Image titled Stop Your Horse from Chewing Things Step 4
    Mentally challenge your horse. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to entertain and enrich your horse's life. You can try training your horse to do new things, like touching targets on cue, jumping, or dressage. Or, offer toys to amuse your horse. Your horse might like playing with rubber tires, ropes, or balls, especially if he has to stay in his stall for a while.[7]
    • Even just spending time with horse can stimulate his mind. Give him a gentle massage and talk to him.

Method 2
Addressing Chewing Because of Illness or Diet

  1. Image titled Stop Your Horse from Chewing Things Step 5
    Consider your horse's eating habits. If you've noticed your horse chewing and a change in his diet, a medical condition may be affecting your horse. If you're unsure if there have been any changes, ask yourself the following questions:[8]
    • Does the horse eat more or less?
    • Has the horse become a messy eater?
    • Is the horse losing weight?
    • Is the horse drinking more or less?
    • Have the horse's droppings changed?
  2. Image titled Stop Your Horse from Chewing Things Step 6
    Evaluate your horse's diet. Your horse should be chewing grass and foraging for up to 20 hours a day. If your horse is getting a high-concentrate diet (like pellets), he won't have the chance to chew for a prolonged period of time. While this means he won't need to physically chew, he'll still have a psychological need to chew.[9]
    • Your horse may also develop strange chewing habits if his diet is missing necessary vitamins or minerals.
  3. Image titled Stop Your Horse from Chewing Things Step 7
    Have your horse's diet assessed. If you think your horse's diet is causing the chewing, have a veterinary nutritionist evaluate the diet. The nutritionist can see what needs to be adjusted so that the diet is balanced and not deficient in vitamins and minerals. You may also be referred to the vet for blood work to determine where deficiencies lie.[10]
    • You may also want to switch from a concentrated diet to a forage and hay diet, so the horse spends more time chewing.
  4. Image titled Stop Your Horse from Chewing Things Step 8
    Determine if your horse is in pain. Your horse may start chewing things as a way to distract himself from pain. He may have a nagging or low-grade pain, like a stomach ulcer. Your horse may show one of the following signs if he's in pain:[11][12]
    • A gaping mouth when you ride
    • A clamped down tail when you ride
    • Tense muscles
    • Any behavior that's uncharacteristic for your horse (for example, a lower energy level, strange facial expressions, or reluctance to interact with other horses)
    • Elevated heart rate
  5. Image titled Stop Your Horse from Chewing Things Step 9
    Know when to take your horse to the dentist. If a dental problem is causing your horse's chewing, you'll need to make sure that the cause is identified and treated. Only by treating the medical condition will the chewing stop. Get medical attention for your horse if you notice:[13]
    • Changes in eating habits
    • Signs of pain
    • Rough wear on the teeth
    • Excessive salivation
    • Bad breath
    • Face or jaw swelling


  • As a short-term solution to your horse's chewing, try covering frequently chewed areas with an unpleasant tasting coating, like hot sauce, soap, or commercial chew-stop preparations. Realize that it may take a lot of product to cover a large area, your horse may move on to chewing something else, and rain can wash away the solution.[14]

Article Info

Categories: Horse Feeding