Wood Choice for Horse Stalls

Is there any kind of wood that horses won't chew on? July 18, 2008

Regarding the question of the best wood for horse stalls, the responses have been cottonwood, white and red oak, blackjack oak, and persimmon. What is the best? What about hemlock?

Forum Responses
(WOODnetWORK Forum)
From contributor A:
Having built plenty of horse stalls, I'm assuming that you are looking for something that the horses won't eat or otherwise chew on. The short answer is - forget it. Horses will eat most woods. It feels good on their teeth and gums. With that said, I've seen some ranchers use pressure treated timber, but as soon as the timber dries out they chew right through it anyway. My suggestion has always been to make the top stall rail removable.

From Gene Wengert, technical adviser Sawing and Drying Forum:
Here is the technical information: There are two main groups of oak - red and white. Within each group are about 20 species. Once in the lumber form, it is not possible to identify the precise species. In the red oak group there are northern red oak and southern red oak species, as well as cherrybark, Schumard, pin, black, and scarlet oak. Blackjack oak is more commonly called black oak. All these individual species are not separated but all are lumped together into the lumber grouping called red oak.

In the white oak lumber grouping, there are species called bur, chinkapin, swamp white, and white oak.

From contributor C:
Off the top of my head I would say cypress (gopher wood) because of its resistance to moisture, or Pecan because it is abundant in Texas and what is left over you can barbeque with. My horses crib when they are low on hay or bored or need minerals, so ride them, try a few mineral blocks, or keep them in good hay and use a good hardwood, and making the top rail replaceable is a good idea, just in case.

From contributor D:
I've had my horses chew on wood regardless of the type of wood. My remedy was to coat the chewable section with 30 weight motor oil. This stops them for a while. After a while the oil leaches out and they have to be recoated.

From Gene Wengert, technical adviser Sawing and Drying Forum:
The following species contain chemicals that are toxic to horses: all the oaks (tannins), buckeye, red maple, black locust, black walnut, and yew. There may be others. This information is from Ohio State Extension service.

From contributor E:
Don't forget that cherry is toxic to horses, too!

From contributor F:
Make the top rail replaceable. We had one cuss that would not just chew - he made a meal of it. Get some jalapeno or habanera peppers and whip them up in the blender, add some water and mix well, and paint on the boards.

From contributor G:
Horses will chew anything wood that they can get their teeth around. For inside stalls, try Halt Cribbing. Look for it at your equine supply store or on the internet. I believe you can thin it down a bit with linseed oil if necessary for brushing. For outside wood fencing that will be painted, try nailing on 1-1/2" metal studwall track, and then paint it. Horses will not chew on metal that much. It will save your 2 x 6s.

From contributor H:
Is the black locust is toxic or is it just the bark?

From Gene Wengert, technical advisor Sawing and Drying Forum:
Toxic compounds are found in black locust sprouts and bark, as well as leaves, flowers, and seed pods, including a glycoside (robitin) and phytotoxins (robin and phasin). These are also in the wood to a small extent.

Generally it is good to remember that wood species with natural decay and/or insect resistance in the heartwood, such as black locust, have a fungicide and insecticide in the heartwood. These chemicals are what kill fungi and insects. Some folks think that natural decay and insect resistance is not harmful, but it certainly is. Such chemicals may be as dangerous as the chemicals that we put into wood to give decay and insect resistance.

From contributor I:
I built my horse stalls out of used fir (concrete forms) 2 x 8s. The corner and center posts are 8" treated Lodgepole posts.On the sides of these posts I attached angle iron with lag screws. I slid the boards in to a wall height of 4' making it easy to remove and/or replace stall boards. To eliminate drafts and warpage, I tied the boards together with 3/8" OSB. To discourage chewing, I nailed thin angle Iron, used for drywall corners, on the top inside board edges. For the 8" Lodgepole uprights left exposed, I wrapped with 8" galvanized stove pipe. Problem solved no more chewing.

From contributor J:
Whatever you use, you might want to paint it with a mixture that has proven useful to others with the same problem. The trick is to mix in powered cayenne pepper (or chili powder) to whatever "paint" which might include thinned glue or a drying oil like boiled linseed oil. I have never personally tried this because my horses have not cribbed but I know others who swear by it.