Your Guide to Equine Health Care

Why Does My Horse Play With His Tongue?

What could be the cause behind this young horse’s strange tongue lollying at feeding time? Dr. Sue McDonnell answers.

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Why Does My Horse Play With His Tongue
One theory is that oral behaviors increase salivation and help buffer stomach acid.

Q.My 4-year-old gelding plays with his tongue every night in his stall at feeding time when he’s waiting on his hay (see video below or at Why would a horse do this? Is it because new teeth are growing in, or is he just bored?

—Jennifer, via email

A.Great video clip! This behavior goes by a few names, but lollying is probably the most common. I couldn’t appreciate if there was any sucking, as well. There are actually many variations of tongue and lip movements in various combinations and specific forms. All are pretty peculiar and very interesting. As far as I know, no one knows for sure why some horses do

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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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