What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Foal or Newborn, Eating Soil, Dirt or Sand


Foals are often seen eating 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). None of this is proven though. It is hard to keep a foal from eating dirt and, generally, it is not necessary.

However, it is very important to prevent your foal from eating SAND. Sand can accumulate in your foal's intestines and cause abdominal pain (colic) and diarrhea.

Provide your foal with quality long stem hay and ensure that they have free choice to red mineral and salt. Foals should be kept off of a sandy soil type whenever possible, especially if it is obvious that they are eating sand. Feed hay in a way that minimizes horses picking feed off of sandy soil.

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your role


What To Do

When in doubt, evaluate your foal's general health and share your findings and concerns with your vet. When possible, house foals in areas without sandy soils. Provide lots of long-stem hay, provide socialization and exercise. Check your foal's manure for sand accumulation using the sand sediment test.

What Not To Do

Do not keep newborn foals with this habit on sandy soil.

your vet's role

Your vet uses physical exam, fecal evaluation for sand, x-ray, ultrasound to rule out sand accumulation that could cause severe colic. They assess management and often suggest changes to reduce this problem.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Does the foal appear healthy otherwise?
  • Is the foal nursing?
  • What is your soil type?
  • Is the foal showing any signs of abdominal pain (colic)?

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP