Common stable vices - wood chewing

Stable vices - horses wood chewing
(a: Image from

‘Vice’ is a word commonly used in order to describe undesirable behaviours performed by horses and ponies. There are many different vices with multiple causes and treatments. This piece will be providing an overview of wood-chewing, covering its causes and some of its treatments. Other vices will be covered in future articles.


Wood-chewing is a vice which is not always confined to the stable. As the name suggests, horses which exhibit this vice will be seen chewing, most commonly on doors and fences but occasionally they may chew or lick other items too.


Classic signs that you have a wood-chewer on your yard will be chewing marks on wooden items, in extreme circumstances (such as the horse in the image); there may be chunks out of doors and fencing. Another common sign that your horse is potentially wood-chewing is abnormal wear to their front teeth. The action of biting the wood can cause the incisors to become angled rather than being flat. However it is important to note that these signs are not unique to wood-chewing and the best way to tell if your horse is chewing is to catch them doing it.


A horse may initially begin wood-chewing if they are suffering from a nutritional deficiency, most likely a lack a fibre. Another potential cause is boredom, which is more common in horses that tend to be confined to the same spaces over extended periods. However, regardless of the initial cause it can sometimes become a deep set behavioural issue, meaning that even if those causes that began the vice are resolved, the horse may continue to chew.

Treatments and Preventatives

If your horse is wood-chewing, purely due to a nutritional deficiency, then an alteration to the diet or correct supplementation of your horse’s feed should be enough to resolve the issue. If you are unsure of how to go about this then the best thing to do would be to speak to nutritionist, a feed or


supplement company who may be able to advise further.

If you believe that your horse is chewing has become more of a behavioural than a nutritional issue then you could look into minimising the number of surfaces on which the horse can chew, although you will have to be carefull that this does not cause stress to your horse. Alternatively you can try to make your horse’s environment more interesting to keep the boredom at bay. This could involve making sure they always have a companion, or you could provide them with one of the many boredom busters on the market. Boredom busters are designed to keep your horse occupied either in the stable or in the field (depending on the product), however if you cannot afford one of these items, then often a football or a swede on a string can do just as good a job. Another option is to supplement your horse with a


chelated calcium supplement. Chelated calcium supplementation has been shown to help minimise behavioural based vices in numerous horses.


Please note that this piece has not been written as a comprehensive list of the signs, causes and treatments/preventatives of wood-chewing. It is simply here to provide a little background on the vice.

As always, if ever you are at all concerned about your horse’s health and wellbeing, please do consult your vet.

Image from:


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Further Reading:
Veterinary Notes for Horse Owners. Capt. Horace Hayes. (2002).