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Things Your Horse Will Not Eat
 By Winniefield Park   •   6th Apr 2017   •   1,218 views   •   0 comments
Things Your Horse Will Not Eat

Someone who is developing a new type of bedding asked me if there is anything horses won’t eat. Horses commonly try to eat their bedding unless you use something like shredded paper, although they’ll probably try a taste. Some horses love straw, especially oat straw and some will even snack on shavings depending on what type wood they’re from. Some horses just seem to eat anything, even noshing on things they shouldn’t. Truthfully, the list of things they won’t eat is much shorter than the things they will eat. And of course, there are things they eat, but shouldn’t because it’s unhealthy or downright dangerous for them.

Things like stinging nettles and poison ivy taste good to a horse and they seem to be able to eat them without harm. They’ll eat wood shavings, dirt, and their stall walls. They’ll eat cabbage and broccoli, even though they’ll probably end up with bad gas. They’ll eat moldy hay and straw, cat and dog food, junk food, hamburgers, fruits and vegetables or all sorts, meats and soft drinks and sometimes even ‘hard’ drinks.

So is there anything a horse will not eat? I think if you’re looking for a bedding that horses will not eat you have a few choices. The straw made from canola (rapeseed) is very course and it’s unlikely that a horse would have more than a taste. It’s very course and stick-like and brown. This is not canola hay, which is harvested just after the yellow bloom dies off. Canola hay can be fed if it’s mixed with other types of hay. Paper products will be less palatable than wood or grain based beddings.

Horses don’t normally eat moss. Peat moss is sometimes used as a bedding or an absorbent layer under other types of bedding. So a horse probably won’t eat it. Some horses might taste it, though, and if they do, it’s not toxic. Because growing tree moss might get freshened up faster than grass in the spring, a horse might nibble on it to satisfy the need to graze.

Bitter sprays might seem an obvious choice if you’re trying to dissuade a greedy horse from eating something it shouldn’t but even that can fail. Bitter apple doesn’t faze some horses at all. Hot pepper spray is usually effective, but it can burn skin and eyes, yours and the horse’s if you rub against it. Alternatively, people protect fence rails with creosote, which is messy and smells horrible.

A substance called Bitrex is said to be the most bitter substance in the world. Its chemical name is denatonium benzoate. It’s commonly added to household cleaning products to dissuade kids from eating or drinking them. It’s also found in a lot of products designed to be sprayed on surfaces you don’t want your horse to chew or crib on. Bitrex is so potent the manufacturer's website says a thimble full will make the water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool taste bitter. As awful as this stuff tastes, however, it’s completely harmless. You’ll find either Bitex or hot pepper oil, also called Capsicum Oleoresin in most mixtures intended to deter chewers and cribbers.

So what else won’t horses eat? Pieces of metal, rocks, glass and plastic have been found in horse’s stomachs. But whether they intentionally ate those things and enjoyed the taste is a guess. Horses will eat almost anything. And so as it turns out, the list of what they won’t eat is very, very short.
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