Incessant Licking

I have a very athletic 10-year-old, 17-hand Warmblood gelding who is very well-behaved. He doesn’t bite, doesn
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Q: I have a very athletic 10-year-old, 17-hand Warmblood gelding who is very well-behaved. He doesn’t bite, doesn’t kick, and is the most passive horse in the field. He is ridden five or six times a week for training (jumpers). That said, he likes/needs to lick everything or have food in his mouth all of the time. He goes through his salt lick every few weeks; he has a Nibblenet slow feeder for hay, but he consumes it faster than other horses do even without the net. He drinks tons of water and pees a lot, too. While I’m within reach (grooming, tacking, washing, etc) he is licking any and every part of me–clothes, skin, hair … nothing is off limits.

I have a hard time keeping his weight down, as his heart rate is very slow and he is always munching in the field/stall and the grazing muzzle really irritates his skin (even with sheepskin covering the edges).

Bottom line, what causes this quirk? If he were a person, I’d say there was a lot of anxiety and insecurity

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Sue M. McDonnell, PhD, is a certified applied animal behaviorist and the founding head of the equine behavior program at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine. She is also the author of numerous books and articles about horse behavior and management.

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