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Horses urinating on hay

From: Lisa

Dear Jessica, I have wondered about this for a long time and am curious as to whether there is a reason for this behavior. I have several horses that urinate directly on their hay, purposefully and intentionally, while out in the pasture (with others). Are they 'marking' it for some reason? I can't imagine they'd want to eat it after this though! I have seen both mares and geldings do this. You are such a wealth of information and I was hoping you could give me some insight. Thanks!

Hi Lisa! You're right, horses usually don't want to eat their hay after they've urinated on it. They almost certainly aren't "marking" it in any territorial sense; stallions and some geldings WILL "mark" their territory, but almost always with dung. A stallion or territorial gelding will typically dung on top of another stallion's pile to show that this is now HIS territory.

As for horses urinating on hay in pasture, I can offer two reasons. I've seen many horses urinate on their hay for both - I'll let you figure out which one is more likely.

Reason #1: The horse is commenting on the quality of the hay, or on its preference for another sort of hay - or for the pasture grass. Some horses will urinate on hay to show their displeasure with it.

Reason #2: The horse is looking for a soft/absorbent place to urinate. Horses hate to splash their legs with urine, and will go to great lengths to avoid this, always looking for a non-splashing surface if they have any choice. This is why some horses will not urinate in a trailer, even on a long trip, unless there is a layer of shavings on top of the trailer mats or floor. If the pasture is frozen hard or baked hard by the sun, horses will typically look for a suitable place to urinate - and sometimes, that means on the pile of hay that they weren't interested in eating anyway.


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