The short answer is: NO!
If you mow your pasture and leave behind grass clippings that dry in small, airy amounts, generally speaking, that is probably not a problem for your horse. But, gathering the clippings into piles, and feeding them to your horse in larger amounts will cause problems. And here’s why:
- As we explained in a previous blog post on horse colic, your horse’s digestive system is sensitive. His stomach is relatively small, so he needs to eat small amounts over an extended period of time in order to digest properly. Your horse doesn’t know this, of course, so if he’s presented with a tempting pile of grass clippings, he will dig in and eat them quickly – clogging up his system and possibly resulting in a dangerous case of colic.
- Also stated in our blog on colic, adding grass clippings to your horse’s diet can upset the delicate balance of microbes in your horse’s gut. Again, colic might rear its ugly head.
- If you stick your hand in a pile of lawn clippings, you’ll notice how warm they are. That’s because they’re fermenting! Because the lawnmower has already chopped them up, your horse doesn’t need to chew them before swallowing them. This by-passes the important step where saliva gets mixed in with food. Saliva helps dilute acids created by the fermenting process. When a horse eats grass clippings, the grass arrives in the stomach already fermenting, and the gases that are given off can expand to the point where they result in a bad case of colic, or, even rupture the stomach.
- A pile of mounded grass clippings can encourage mold to form – this is not good for your horse, it can lead to colic, and/or diarrhea.
Horses are very sensitive to poisonous plants. When they are eating in a pasture situation, they naturally avoid the plants and any garden waste that are toxic. But lawn mowers have no such instincts – all the clippings get mixed in together. So your horse, in his haste to eat something that has already been chopped for him, is not able to discern whether there are any toxic weeds mixed in. Since horses do not have a mechanism for vomiting contents from their stomachs, he has no way to remove the toxins once they have been ingested. This can end up as a huge vet bill for you and/or the possible loss of your horse
- In addition to all facts previously mentioned, there’s little air inside the warm piles of grass clippings; this potentially leads to botulism forming– and THAT can be deadly for your horse. Botulism is difficult to treat, and it can cost in excess of $3,000 per horse. This particular antitoxin is really most beneficial if you use it when your animals first start showing symptoms. The clinical signs of botulism are similar to other causes of central nervous infections (loss of coordination, tremors, inability to eat). Accordingly, the diagnosis is not clear-cut. With the right amount of care, a horse can recover from this but, if they happen to get exposed to a large amount of this toxin, there is a good chance that most will die despite treatment.
- Lawn grass is not the same as pasture grass. It generally receives more chemical treatments such as fertilizers and weed killers. And, if you have other pets, there may be urine and feces intermingled. None of this is beneficial to your horse.
- A horse that’s presented with a “treat” of grass clippings may gulp it down too quickly – and it may stick in his throat, causing “choke,” a condition that will require veterinarian care.
Are those enough reasons to persuade you from feeding grass and lawn clippings to your horse? Better safe (with a treat of carrot or apple) than sorry!
Banixx For Horses
Learn more about Banixx and how it can be used to treat rain rot in horses.