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


Eating Soil, Dirt or Sand (in Adult)


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.

  • 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.

your role


What To Do

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. You can float some manure as detailed in the SKILL. If you find any other abnormalities or remain concerned about this behavior, contact your vet.

What Not To Do

Do not ignore sand ingestion. It can cause life-threatening intestinal obstruction.

your vet's role

Your vet may suggest changes in management or diet to lessen or resolve this behavior. They may also discuss a specific recommended psyllium regimen to help move sand out.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Has this behavior developed recently?
  • Has anything changed in the environment, feed or management?
  • Does the horse have access to, or is it fed on sandy soil?
  • Have you noticed any signs of abdominal pain (colic)?
  • Does the horse have diarrhea or loose manure?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP