Why do Horses Roll in the Dirt? 8 Common Reasons

When you’ve spent a lot of time getting your horse nice and clean, it always seems to find a dirt patch to roll in.
This can be rather frustrating, meaning you have to brush them off again or give them another bath.
Perhaps, it is worth pausing to ask, why do horses roll in the dirt?

Understanding why horses roll

From a horse’s perspective, being clean or dirty isn’t an issue. For horses, rolling in the dirt is as natural as grazing — both are integral parts of their lives and behavioral patterns.
Moreover, rolling in the dirt has several critical benefits for horses. Let’s delve into some of the reasons for this behavior.

Removing hair and dead skin

Rolling in the dirt is a method horses employ to shed loose hair and dead skin.
As winter recedes and summer arrives, horses carry a thick coat – rolling ultimately helps them expedite the shedding of this fur.

Sweating

When horses run, their exercising muscles generate heat, and the animals primarily rely on sweating to regulate their body temperature.
However, if a horse is saddled during exercise, the gear can obstruct sweat evaporation, which can become irritating.
Rolling then becomes the horses’ soothing response.

Drying off

Even after you have bathed your horse and dried its body, the coat may not be entirely dry.
If the horse’s fur remains wet, it can lead to discomfort.
The horse then finds a natural “dryer” by rolling in the dirt.

Repelling insects

During the rapid proliferation of insects in the summer, a horse can develop allergic reactions and endure varying levels of irritation around its mane and tail after insect bites.
Rolling in the dirt not only alleviates this irritation but also adds a layer of soil to its skin as a natural insect repellant.

Providing a sun shield

Horses are creatures that prefer colder climates and dust adhered from rolling serves as a natural sunscreen.
Although we prefer our horses clean, rolling in mud and water also provides a means for them to cool off during hot summer days.

Demonstrating dominance

Horses also communicate in unique ways that include rolling.
Horses ensure their scent lingers in the air by rolling in their territory, thereby signaling to other horses that they are healthy, hold a particular status in the herd, and feel good.

Relief from discomfort

A poorly fitted saddle can press directly against a horse’s spine – for instance, a saddle that is too wide in the middle can bear pressure directly onto the horse’s sacrum or back, failing to distribute the pressure evenly across the horse’s back.
This discomfort can be alleviated by rolling, a form of self-massage that helps ease muscle tension and reduces pain.

Signs of illness

Conditions such as spasms, bloating, constipation, displaced intestines, and urinary retention, which cause abdominal pain in horses, can provoke a horse to roll in the dirt.
If your horse appears agitated and unable to roll completely, please promptly contact a veterinarian.

Why do Horses Roll in the Dirt

FAQ

Is it normal for horses to roll around in the dirt?

Generally, it is normal for horses to roll.
However, if reduced appetite, refusal to drink water, restlessness, or rapid rolling accompany this behavior, then these are likely symptoms of illness; it is recommended to contact a veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.

Are horses happy when they roll?

Rolling can help alleviate itching caused by insect bites, as well as release tension and pressure in the muscles and spine post-ride.
Simultaneously, as a way of mimicking behavior and expressing joy, rolling helps horses manage emotions and reconnect with the freedom and spontaneity of nature. Under normal circumstances, horses thoroughly enjoy rolling.

Why do horses like rolling in mud?

Rolling in the mud is one of the horses’ relaxing methods.
It can help mitigate the itch from insect bites, as well as fast-dry their sweat through the soil stuck on their body to soothe discomfort. Horses are fond of rolling mud because it aligns with their natural behavior.

Summing

It is common and natural for horses to roll in the dirt, mostly to itch, repel insects, and prevent sunburn.
While this is generally harmless, it is essential to monitor their roll closely for signs of discomfort or agony, and if noticed, contact a veterinarian promptly.
Spending more time observing your horse’s daily behavior can ensure it stays healthy and happy.

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