Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Eating Soil, Dirt or Sand (in Adult)

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

  • If this behavior persists without an apparent cause.
  • To discuss your equine's general health and management.

Although more commonly seen in foals, adult horses may also intentionally eat soil or dirt. Theories for this behavior include compensation for dietary deficiencies (salt and minerals), ingestion of micro-organisms or clay (digestive aid), or behavioral issues (boredom). It is hard to keep a horse from eating dirt and, generally, it is not necessary.

However, it is important to prevent your horse from ingesting sand in large quantities. Sand can accumulate in the horse’s intestines and cause life-threatening intestinal crisis. It is all about the particle size- sand versus dirt.


Provide your horse with quality long stem hay and ensure that they have free access to red mineral and salt. Provide companionship and exercise. Ensure that horses are fed in a location where they are not picking up sand. If some sand ingestion is inevitable, be sure they are on a psyllium regimen.

Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to attitude and appetite. If you find any other abnormalities or remain concerned about this behavior, contact your vet.


Your vet may suggest changes in management or diet to lessen or resolve this behavior.

Helpful Terms & Topics in HSVGWritten, Reviewed or Shared by Experts in Equine Health

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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