Can I give grass clippings to my horse?
While this seems like a safe and fun and rewarding thing to do, it’s actually highly dangerous. Horses love grass, they love hay, and while grass clipping seem like “mini-hay”, the very nature of grass clippings makes them a horrible choice to feed your horse. Here’s why:
Horses love to eat! Grazing takes a lot of time to meander, rip off tiny amounts of grass, and moving on. A big pile of grass clippings creates a pre-cut dangerous gorging feast for your horse to scarf down. This can result in:
- Choke. A very serious condition that requires immediate Veterinary intervention.
- Colic. A quantity of grass clipping lands in the hind gut, where excessive fermentation happens. This can lead to colic.
- Laminitis. The same colic inducing fermentation can also cause this crippling and horrible condition. Learn more about spotting signs of laminitis here.
Grass clippings in piles are wonderful places for the following hazards to be created:
- Mold. The moisture from the grass and the warm temperatures are a mold heaven. This can cause all sorts problems, from colic to toxicity. Mold can also create respiratory reactions, especially for horses that already have heaves and similar conditions.
- Botulism. This particularly horrible little neurotoxin (loosely translated into toxic to your horse’s neurological system) can mimic colic and choke. It also requires immediate Veterinary care including an antitoxin and plasma transfusions.
You also need to consider the source of the grass clippings. Most pastures are eaten down, and decorative lawn areas are mowed. The areas you mow are likely the areas you would treat with chemicals to reduce weeds, encourage growth, create greenness. You horse should not be eating this!
But what if your horse’s pasture is so think it needs to be mowed? Besides being lucky at having a pasture that amazing, a few simple things to do to prevent problems.
- Leave clippings on top of the grass that you mow. This helps to prevent the mold, botulism, etc. from forming. It’s generally safe to let the clippings dry and blow away in the pasture. Watch out for big chunks that stick together, you will want to remove those.
You can see the clippings drying out loosely in this photo.
- Let your horse hang out in a different pen or pasture for a day or so after the mowing. Mowing creates a stressed blade of grass that remains, which will hoard sugars. This reduces the chance your horse will gorge on the newly shortened pasture.
- Talk to your Veterinarian about your horse’s turnout routine and pasture safety. Your local Agriculture Extension service may also have some great information for you about your specific neck of the woods.
So enjoy the sun as you mow the lawn, and keep the horses away!