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The dangers of grass cuttings and garden waste to horses

 June 2020

Horses eat grass, so what’s the problem with feeding grass cuttings? Unfortunately, grass cuttings are potentially very dangerous for horses to eat and sadly many have died as a result of people putting lawn mowings over the fence into horse pastures.

There are many concerns and dangers to the horse if they eat grass cuttings and garden waste which include:

  • Risks the horse choking
  • Has the serious risk of causing the horse extreme stomach problems, which can make them incredibly ill and has the potential to cause death
  • Any chemicals applied to the lawn, such as anti-weed (herbicide) or anti-insect (pesticide) should not be eaten by horses
  • Any plants that are caught up in the grass cuttings, or fed direct to the horse, could be poisonous to them. Again, this could make them extremely ill and could kill them.

 

Grass Cuttings 

 

Choke

As the grass cuttings have been finely chopped up, horses won’t need to chew as much or at all before swallowing the grass. This results in the horse gorging on the pile of cuttings and therefore eating large amounts very quickly. The cuttings can compact and become lodged in the horse’s throat, causing them to choke.

Extreme stomach issues

Cut grass doesn’t dry evenly and will have areas of wet clumps that ferment (which is why in hay-making the grass has to be turned). Due to the fermentation, it is likely that the cuttings feel warm to the touch, especially in the middle of a pile.

When horses chew their food, saliva is produced which is an important process of digestion. As the horses won’t need to chew the cuttings much before swallowing, there isn’t enough saliva being produced and mixed with the food. When the cuttings arrive in the stomach, they are already fermenting. This is bad news for the horse, as in normal circumstances, grass and hay won’t start to ferment until it reaches much further along their gut as their stomach is not able to cope.

In the stomach, the grass cuttings release gas, causing it to expand and even rupture in some cases. Horses are unable to be sick or burp because the stomach has a one-way valve, so there is nowhere for the gas to be released.

Grass cuttings can also cause the horse to develop a potentially life-threatening stomach ache known as colic further along the digestive system or a painful condition called laminitis that affects their hooves. Horses need to have any changes to their diet made gradually over a couple of weeks. Suddenly being fed grass cuttings is a huge change and is significantly bad for the horse.

Poisonous Plants

There are many plants that are poisonous to horses. These could be mowed up along with the grass cuttings which may cause the horse additional harm. Depending on the plant, the range of problems include severe diarrhoea, liver damage, collapse or even death.

The British Horse Society urges members of the public not to feed horses which do not belong to you. Although feeding horses may seem harmless, your kindness may kill!

 

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