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


Eating Manure (in Adult)


Although less common than in foals, manure eating (coprophagy) in adult horses is still common. It is thought to most likely result from boredom and hunger. There are theories that it can be a consequence of lack of adequate forage or fiber, or other dietary imbalances or deficiencies. But none of this is proven.

Horses that are very hungry will eat their own manure and that of herd-mates. There is actually significant nutritional value in manure that can help nourish an otherwise starving horse.

The behavior usually occurs in bored adult horses on dry lots. Theoretically, horses engaged in this behavior ingest more parasites, which can lead to other problems. However, mild coprophagy alone, with no other signs of illness or disease, probably does not cause significant problems.

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    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • To discuss your equine's general health and management.
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your role


What To Do

Assess your horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) and assess their management. Make changes to management in an attempt to reduce this behavior. Feed longer stem hay and more of it, and ensure that horses have access to white and mineralized salt blocks.

Provide an environment that engages, in the form of increased exercise, turnout or stimulation from other horses. Horses do better psychologically and physically when they are kept with or at least in view of others.

your vet's role

You may contact your vet, who may want to evaluate your horses and management and may recommend changes in management to lessen this behavior.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • How is the horse stabled or managed?
  • Is the horse eating, drinking and behaving normally otherwise?
  • What is the horse currently being fed?
  • What is the horse's Body Condition Score (BCS)?
  • Is the horse alone or kept with others in a group?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • Can you change management to improve the situation?

Related References:

McGreevy P. Equine Behavior, A Guide for Veterinarians & Equine Scientists. Edinburgh: Saunders, 2004.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP