An H&C user wrote in worried about the mud patches in her horses field, and his strange licking habits.
"I have just noticed what appears to be smooth mud patches in my paddock, and my friend said she saw my horse licking up the mud. Could you advise on what causes this and what I can do - as I was told it was due to my horse's vitamin deficiency?"
Veterinarian Nigel Haizelden, B.Sc.B.Vet.Med.MRCVS from Ledston Equine Clinic replies:
"Flat mud patches in the paddock, assuming they are large ones, are usually due to your horse laying down or having a roll, which they will often do in a "favourite" spot. Many owners become worried if they see their horse licking at mud but this is often of no cause for concern. Horses rarely suffer from vitamin or mineral deficiencies unless they are on a very restricted or bizarre diet, or in specific parts of the country where there is a soil deficiency in a mineral, or in large amounts of work for strenuous competition. Huge amounts of money are spent every year on unnecessary feed supplements.
Horses do like the taste of salts and it is possible that your horse is just doing this because it tastes good. Boredom can be another factor, so providing your horse with a source of low-calorie fibre in the field will give him something to do. If the horse is doing this constantly this would be a sign of abnormal behaviour and it may be worth getting your vet to check him over and consider such things as gastric ulcers.
Where I would be concerned is if you live in an area where the soil is sandy. Ingestion of large amounts of sand can cause an impaction in the caecum, which can become life-threatening. If you are concerned about this, mix some fresh droppings in a large clear plastic bag full of water until they break up completely. Allow them to settle for 15 minutes and if a significant layer of sand forms at the bottom consult your vet.
A useful video of this test can be seen above."