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Grass clippings

From: Jane

Hello, This is a diffcult question to ask, becuase I don't know if I can explain it that well...but here it is.. Grass clippings are dangerous to horses right? And if they are why are they dangerous? Well let's say I was to mow my pasture, how would I prevent getting grass clippings on the grass? Thank you! Jane

Hi Jane! It's a perfectly reasonable question, and I'm glad you asked. Grass clippings are dangerous for several reasons. They are typically very short, and this tempts horses to swallow large mouthfuls of clippings without doing very much chewing. This can result in choke, especially when the clippings are fed ALONE and not as an incidental extra that happens to be in the pasture.

Grass clippings from a pasture are less dangerous than grass clippings from a lawn, simply because pasture grass isn't likely to have been treated with chemicals that are dangerous to horses. Grass clippings from a pasture or an untreated lawn are still dangerous if you collect them and offer them to your horses, because the damp clippings, collected and bagged, will quickly, almost instantly in fact, begin to mold, mildew, or ferment. And finally, even if you were to take the clippings from a perfectly clean, untreated pasture, allow them to dry, and THEN collect them and offer them to your horses, there would still be the risk of choke because of the large quantities of short bits of grass. THAT is why you should never consider bagging your grass clippings and feeding them to horses.

I'll repeat this, because it's important: If you were bagging the clippings and then offering them to your horses, THAT would be dangerous, because the clippings would be clumped together in damp wads, and a greedy horse could easily take a large mouthful and find itself with a tight-packed wad of hay stuck in its esophagus. Also, mold/mildew/fermentation can all begin to take place very quickly when just-cut, still-damp grass is packed tightly into a bag. Don't ever pack up your lawn clippings to take out to the barn as a "treat" for the horses - and don't let anyone else bring clippings to your barn as a "treat" for your horses. The risks are far too great.

However, none of these risks apply to the situation you've described. Your specific question is about mowing your pasture, and leaving the clippings there. This is not likely to cause any problems at all, for several reasons. First, the clippings will quickly become dry and straw-like in the sun and air - they won't mold or mildew or ferment. Some of them will probably blow away, also. ;-) Because they were created as you did the mowing, and you simply left them where they fell, they'll be distributed throughout the pasture, not piled up in heaps where a horse might be able to take huge mouthfuls and risk the possibility of choke. Your horses won't be able to open their mouths and take in a dangerously large wad of short, damp, compressed grass clippings - so don't worry. They can safely consume dry, well-distributed clippings along with the pasture grass.

I hope this clears things up. And, as I said, I'm glad you asked. I expect you're not the only horse-owner who has experienced a little bit of confusion about this.


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