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Understanding Strange Baby Horse Habits for New Horse Owners

Understanding Baby Horse Habits

If you are a new horse owner or just starting to learn about equine behavior, you may be surprised to witness some odd behaviors in young horses. From lip smacking to poop eating, to even biting, these habits can be alarming and confusing to understand.

However, understanding the reasons behind these habits can be essential in maintaining the health and well-being of your baby horse. In this article, we will explore the reasons why baby horses engage in these habits and what they might mean.

1. Lip Smacking:

One habit that young horses often display is lip smacking. This behavior is characterized by the horse moving its lips repeatedly, creating a smacking sound.

Many experts believe that lip smacking could be an indication of a horse’s hunger, it is also likely related to other emotional feelings like relaxation, boredom, or excitement. In some instances, lip smacking may be an unconscious behavior, indicating that the horse is fully relaxed and comfortable in their surroundings.

However, when the behavior is more persistent, it is a sign that your horse might be hungry or wants attention. When your horse is smacking their lips repeatedly, it may be time to check their feed schedule.

Increase the feed amount or schedule, or provide hay to see if that reduces the behavior. Alternatively, pay attention to other possible reasons for your horse’s emotions.

Some horses will display mood swings, especially when they are asked to do something they do not want to do. It may be a sign that your horse feels bored or stressed, and it would be beneficial to play games that stimulate and excite them.

2. Poop Eating:

Another habit that is often observed in young horses is poop eating. While it may seem disgusting and even pointless, it actually serves a purpose.

Poop eating is essential in maintaining good bacteria in the intestinal tract, promoting a healthy immune system, and balancing the microflora of the gut. The behavior is often seen in young horses who are curious or have a lack of nutrients in their diet.

It may also happen when they are bored or not given enough foraging opportunities. If you find that your horse is consuming the stool frequently, it may be a sign that you need to provide them with more roughage and hay to satisfy their appetite.

Moreover, young horses might eat poop to get more beneficial bacteria and pass them through their gut. This process helps them develop immunity against certain bacteria that they will most likely encounter in their natural habitats.

Poop eating ensures that colostrum and other antibodies are efficiently transferred to the young horse’s gut, leading to a robust immune and digestive system. While it is not something that many horse owners like to see, it is essential in promoting the health of the horse.

However, if you think that your horse is overeating or are concerned about other potential health issues, it is best to speak to your vet.

3. Biting:

Biting is a behavior that can be more alarming than lip smacking or poop eating.

It can be a sign of social hierarchy, dominance, play, anger, or even illness. This behavior is particularly prevalent in young colts that are finding their place in the herd and trying to establish their dominance.

Likewise, if another horse comes into the colt’s space or interferes with their meal, they can show aggression to protect their food. If it is a sign of dominance, your horse might display aggressive behaviors, biting or pushing other horses to establish themselves as a leader.

It could also indicate that the horse is suffering from stress, discomfort, or anxiety and is lashing out due to pain or discomfort. If the biting behavior is a sign of play, it is relatively harmless as long as no one is getting hurt.

When your horse displays interactive play with other young horses, it is vital that you keep an eye on them to ensure they don’t start to exhibit unhealthy competitive behavior. In the case of aggressive biting, ensure the welfare of the affected horses and that they are safe.

Management changes, such as separating the horses in separate pastures, could be beneficial.


In conclusion, baby horses are prone to display strange habits like lip smacking, poop eating, or biting.

However, these habits have explanations and serve a purpose. Lip smacking can be an indication of hunger, relaxation, boredom, or excitement.

In contrast, poop eating can promote the good bacteria in their gut and enhance immunity, and biting can be an instinctual reaction to establish dominance or an agitated behavior. Understanding these habits and their cause can ensure that you provide your baby horse with the care and attention they need to stay healthy and happy.

Management of baby horse habits:

1. Lip smacking:

Lip smacking behavior is a natural behavior in horses and is displayed by horses of all ages. However, baby horses are more prone to showing this behavior in different situations.

While it’s not something to be alarmed about, consistent lip smacking behavior requires proper management to maintain horses’ health and well-being. Baby horses display lip smacking behavior when they are hungry, bored, excited, or uncomfortable.

When this behavior is noticed, it is best to evaluate the horse’s diet, water intake, and exercise routine. A suitable diet that provides all the necessary nutrients is crucial for maintaining a horse’s health, while clean, fresh water is equally important.

In addition, it is essential to provide baby horses with ample hay to keep them occupied and promote healthy digestive function. Routine exercise and socialization also go a long way in reducing boredom and promoting mental and physical health.

Young horses should have access to pasture or outdoor turn-out time to run, play, and interact with fellow horses. Regular brushing, grooming, and veterinary checks are also crucial in keeping young horses healthy and happy.

2. Poop eating:

Poop eating, also known as coprophagia, is a common habit among baby horses. While it might seem like a strange and unhealthy behavior, it serves a vital purpose in maintaining a healthy digestive system in horses.

However, consistent poop eating behavior requires proper management to ensure that horses remain healthy and free from related health problems. Deworming is crucial in managing poop consumption behavior in horses.

Worm infestations can cause discomfort in horses, leading to unhealthy habits such as poop-eating. Ensuring that the horse’s teeth are in good condition is also beneficial in maintaining healthy digestion.

A clean environment is essential in promoting good sanitation, preventing worms infestation and reducing the risk of disease or infections. It is also crucial to provide baby horses with a balanced diet that contains all necessary vitamins and nutrients.

Young horses’ diets should have adequate roughage and limited amounts of grains to promote a healthy digestive system. Baby horses should also have ample grazing time outdoors and fresh hay to keep them healthy and occupied.

3. Biting:

Biting is an unacceptable and dangerous behavior in baby horses. It is vital to manage aggressive behavior in horses to prevent harm to other horses or humans.

Several practices can help manage biting behavior effectively. Consistency and boundaries are essential in managing biting behavior.

Young horses should be repeatedly trained and corrected to understand that biting is unacceptable. Patience and positive reinforcement can also go a long way in reducing aggressive behavior in baby horses.

Professional assistance such as a reputable trainer can teach horses appropriate socialization skills and how to recognize appropriate boundaries. Grazing time is crucial in managing biting behavior in baby horses.

Horses need to have access to pasture or outdoor turn-out time to let off steam and interact with other horses. They need regular exercise to help reduce their anxiety and stress levels.

This routine is crucial to ensure that they are calm and mentally stimulated. Regular health checks are essential in managing aggressive behavior in baby horses.

Sometimes biting can be a sign of underlying medical issues that require immediate veterinary care. Speak to your vet if you notice unusual behavior in your young horse, especially if it is persistent, to determine if they are experiencing any health issues.

Horse terms and information:

Horses have a unique terminology that can be intimidating to beginners. Understanding basic horse terminology is essential in managing and caring for horses effectively.

  • Foals are horses that are less than one year old.
  • Fillies are female horses that are less than four years old.
  • Colts are male horses that are less than four years old.
  • Mares are female horses that are four years or older.
  • Stallions are mature male horses that are considered breeding animals.
  • Weanlings are baby horses that are separated from their mothers and are dependent on humans for care and feeding.
  • Yearlings are horses that are in their second year of life and are transitioning into adulthood.

Foal development:

Foals undergo rapid physical and behavioural development in their first few months of life.

A significant developmental stage is when foals stand for the first time after birth. Within the first hour of life, most foals will attempt to stand.

The initial standing of a foal is often the most critical milestone in a horse’s life. Nursing is also essential for foal development.

Foals should nurse frequently, roughly every 2 hours, during their first days after birth. The first milk, colostrum, is highly beneficial to a newborn foal’s immune system, as it contains essential antibodies to protect the foal from infections.

Another important foal development milestone is passing their first stool, also known as meconium. These stools are black and sticky and consist of the remnants of digestible products that the foal ingested in utero.

The foaling environment should be clear and provide enough space for the foal to pass meconium comfortably.

Overall, managing a young horse takes dedication, patience, and consistent training.

Basic understanding of horse terminology, appropriate nutrition, physical activity, and proper hygiene practices contribute to developing healthy and well-behaved baby horses.

In conclusion, understanding baby horse habits, such as lip smacking, poop eating, and biting, is essential in maintaining their health and well-being.

These habits are often natural behaviors, but consistent behavior suggests the need for improved management. Basic horse terminology, appropriate nutrition, hygiene practices, and physical activity are key elements in developing healthy and well-behaved baby horses.

Takeaways include ensuring the provision of clean environments, regular veterinary checks and health evaluations, and, most importantly, being patient and consistent in training and managing baby horses.


  1. Q: Why do horses engage in lip smacking behavior?
  2. A: Lip smacking behavior is often related to emotional factors such as hunger, relaxation, boredom, or excitement.
  3. Q: Is poop-eating damaging to baby horses?
  4. A: No, poop-eating is a natural behavior that helps maintain essential gut bacteria, but it requires proper management to ensure horses remain healthy.
  5. Q: How do you manage aggressive behavior in young horses like biting?
  6. A: Consistency, boundaries, grazing time, professional assistance, and regular health checkups are effective in managing biting behavior in young horses.
  7. Q: What is colostrum, and why is it essential for newborn foals?
  8. A: Colostrum is the first milk produced by a mare that contains essential antibodies that protect newborn foals from infection.
  9. Q: How can one promote healthy foal development?
  10. A: Appropriate nutrition, regular exercise, adequate grazing time, and proper hygiene practices are essential factors towards achieving healthy foal development and maturity.

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