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Why Do Baby Horses Smack Their Lips, Eat Poop, and Bite?

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Seeing a baby horse take its first steps is awe-inspiring. However, it doesn’t take long before they develop habits that make you shake your head in wonder, like repeatedly smacking their lips or eating poop. Is there any logical reason they do these things?

Baby horses smack their lips when they’re hungry, relaxing, or just out of boredom. According to some vets, foals eat their mothers’ poop to obtain good bacteria and boost their immune systems. And biting for young horses can be playful or a defensive mechanism.

Baby horses are a wonder of nature, but like infants, they have some peculiar habits. Some have no benefit, but others protect and aid their growth.

picture of a baby horse standing next to its mother,

Why do baby horses smack their lips?

Foals, this is what baby horses are called, smack their lips for different reasons. Sometimes they do it as a gesture of submission. Other times it may be done to tell you that they are hungry. Older horses smack their lips as well.

In other cases, it may smack its lips for seeking your attention or if it is unhappy or angry at something. Lastly, baby horses also sometimes do this when they are relaxing.

So different horses smack their lips for various reasons, which is a trait commonly found in baby horses. When the horse grows up and becomes mature such habits will go away on its own.

picture of baby horses in a field with other horses,

Why do baby horses eat poop?

Some foals eat their own mother’s poop from the moment they’re born till they reach two months old. According to veterinarians, the reason they eat their mother’s poop occurs for several different reasons.

These foals eat manure for the good bacteria it provides. The helpful bacteria help them digest food easier. Instead of eating poop, it’s best to add a small portion of probiotics to your foal’s diet to provide the beneficial bacteria their bodies need.

Foals are born with only a small amount of antibodies and a weak immune system. They start building their bodies stronger through the consumption of their mother’s milk. Her colostrum is filled with antibodies.

They may also eat manure to take in parasitic eggs, which some theorize boost their immune system. I haven’t seen any evidence that supports this theory, but it’s out there. Most equine specialists believe it’s best to keep foals in a clean environment with limited exposure to parasites.

Foals may also be trying it out to understand better which food they prefer and which they don’t. The young are curious may take a bite of manure to test it and get a feel for its environment.

But primarily, when a foal is eating poop, it’s likely because its mother isn’t providing sufficient milk, and the baby horse is eating to supplement the lack of available nutrients.

When this occurs, contact your vet right away and have the mare examined. Horses will sometimes eat poop. When a horse eats poop, it’s typically out of boredom.

Horses typically kept in a pasture all day and then confined to a stall get bored quickly. As a result of their unfamiliar confinement and restricted movement, they may take bites of their poop. Eating poop is not common, but it does happen; after hearing about this for years, I bought a horse that had this bad habit.

If you want to stop your horse from doing this, you should consult with a veterinarian or an equine nutritionist who has expertise in this field. They can check if your horse has any nutrients missing in its diet. Their evaluation will give you a starting point to determine if they are eating manure because of boredom or lack of nutrients.

picture of a baby horse standing near poop,

The age of your horse and its activity level are also essential factors to be considered with the diet. After your horse is on a proper diet, there are also many other things you need to check to ensure it stays healthy and nourished.

Make sure that your horse receives grain and other essential nutrients with grass and hay. If your forage is lacking commercial supplements can be added to their diets.

It’s also critical to have a deworming protocol for all your horses. Consult with your veterinarian or equine nutritionist, set up a worming schedule early in your foals life, and stick to the program.

Additionally, have your horse teeth checked annually. Farriers are typically familiar with floating a horse’s teeth and recommend when your foal should see an equine dentist.

Floating is the process of filing off the rough edges of teeth so the horse teeth close evenly; this helps clean the teeth and ensures smooth surfaces. Filing the teeth assist in grinding the food chew, and as a result, they can reap more benefit from the nutrients in the food.

Ensure that your horse has access to clean water all of the time and make it a practice to check their water source daily. Often horses pollute their water, or it’s accidentally drained. Like water, also have hay or other forage available to eat all the time.

Horses living in stalls may feel uncomfortable because they are instinctively roaming animals. Staying in a stall for extended periods may cause stress and strange behavior, like eating manure.

To avoid this, give your animal more time outside the stable and let them exercise and graze. The time outside should reduce coprophagy significantly.

These steps will ensure that your horse is getting all the necessary nutrients and is in a proper mental state, so it should quit eating its poop.

Picture of a baby horse

Why do baby horses bite?

A foal, or baby horse, may bite for several reasons; it may bite when playing or to protect themselves or others. But the primary reason they bite is to find their position in the herd. For horses, you are part of their herd.

Biting is a way to test the social structure and determine who is dominant and who is submissive. For horse owners, it’s an opportunity to set boundaries and establish your superiority over your animal.

Although born without teeth, Foals start getting them quickly and typically have eight teeth within two weeks of birth. Their bites can hurt. If you let them get away with biting you, it creates long-term issues, so without anger but forcefully stop them and let them know who is in charge of this ranch.

Make sure to follow a routine and be consistent in your tasks. You should teach your horses respect from a young age. If your baby horse has a biting habit, and you can’t stop this behavior contact a friend with experience or a professional trainer for assistance.

Lastly, foals and other horses, being natural grazers, spend most of their time chewing on grass and other food. So providing readily available food to keep them occupied chewing or grazing may help curb its biting habit.  

While baby horses often bite playfully, sometimes biting may indicate a display of rage or anger. Usually, when a foal is not comfortable or is suffering from any illness or infection, it may tend to bite.

If you think your foal is biting because it’s sick, be sure to contact your veterinarian and have the animal examined.

picture of two baby horses approaching,
horses and foals in a field

Horse terms that are good to know.

All baby horses less than one year are called foals regardless of their gender. The female foals are referred to as fillies, whereas the male foals are called colts.

These two terms are used until the horse is four years old. After that, the female horses are now known as mares, and the male horses are called stallions. When the baby horses stop weaning, then they are known as weanlings.

After they become a year old, the foals are then called yearlings. Interestingly most foals stand within one hour after they’re born. Standing is one sign that the foal is healthy. Within the next two hours, the foal should begin nursing and shortly after that pass its first stool.

What is a baby horse called?

Baby horses are called foals until they reach their first birthday, then they are called yearlings. A male foal is called a colt, and a female foal is referred to as a filly. To learn more, check out this article: What is a Baby Horse Called?

Are baby horses born with teeth?

Most baby horses are born without teeth; however, some have incisors. Foals grow teeth quickly, usually within a week or two. To learn more about baby foals’ dental progress, check out this article: Are Baby Horses Born With Teeth? Foal and Yearling Dental.

Is a pony a baby horse?

A pony isn’t a baby horse; although both are members of the equine family, there are major differences between baby horses and ponies.