COPROPHAGIA (OH YUCK)
QUESTION: I have a yearling horse that I keep in a stall. I try to let him out every day. He is getting lots of hay and grain and has a salt block in his stall too. BUT, he insists on eating all of his manure. Every bit of it. He has a large potbelly and looks really unthrifty. My neighbors had a horse that did this and they put some kind of white powder on his grain and he quit doing this. How do I stop this habit?
ANSWER: COPROPHAGY is the correct term for a horse that persistently eats his own dung. It is almost always seem in horses confined to box stalls and/or very small pens. Three main causes. First is lack of sufficient exercise. A horse needs to get out of his stall every single day and get exercise to prevent Boredom. They develop the habit because they are bored and have nothing to do. Giving him toys in the stall also helps. Such as hanging plastic jugs (such as large milk jugs with handles on them) from the ceiling for him to play with and putting a large ball in his stall that is made for horses and almost indestructible. You can purchase these (horse toy) balls with handles on them for the horse to grab and hold onto, at Tack Stores or have them order you in one.
Second is insufficient amounts of feed. He is just plain hungry. And the Third is perhaps the one happening in your case. "A deficiency of Vitamin B, especially Vitamin B 1. Apart from the obvious, the horse will most likely be Unthrifty not only because of the Vitamin Deficiency but also because he will continually re-infect himself with roundworms, producing a fair amount of Anemia.
The treatment is either Intravenous or Intramuscular injections of Vitamin B Compound combined with oral Iron and Vitamin Supplements. Also regular worming every six weeks.
I would imagine the powder you speak of for the other horse was probably a Vitamin/Mineral supplement. Once his system had the necessary Vitamins he needed, he quit eating his dung.