Dear Jessica, I have a question which I have asked many people, and gotten many different answers! So, I'd like your advise/opinion on the matter. (However, I have not asked my Vet). It is in regards to fresh cut grass clippings. I've heard that feeding a SMALL amount of them, like a bucketful is an O.K. treat to give to horses that are used to being on grass pasture. I've also heard "NO, NEVER give any grass clippings". I know people who have done it without any problems, but am cautious to do it myself without more background knowledge. What are the associated concerns with feeding grass clippings? Founder? Colic? Maybe all of the above. I only ask because we are currently experiencing a drought in West Michigan, and my pastures have gone barren. I'm feeding Hay now, but the thought of giving some grass clippings as a treat has crossed my mind. What do you think? Thanks for all of the great answers and advise that you give!
First, most lawns are treated with chemicals that keep the grass lovely and green, but are not good for horses to eat. Fertilizer, "lawn treatments", and other additives can all be toxic to horses. Even if you haven't added anything to your lawn in the last two or three years, there can still be enough chemical residue in the ground to render the grass clippings dangerous to your horse.
Second, even the healthiest, cleanest grass clippings begin to ferment almost immediately after they are cut, and this can play merry hell with your horse's digestion. So even if you've NEVER put anything on your lawn in ten years, don't feed your horse the clippings....
Third, even if you cut the grass on your lawn and reach across the fence to offer it to your horse immediately -- pre-fermentation, so to speak -- your horse will still risk choke, because of the way that grass clippings, which are soft and short, mash together as the horse chews and swallows them. Choke is not a pleasant emergency to deal with -- and one of the best ways to avoid it is NOT to feed grass clippings (another is to feed carrot pieces in long slivers or 'sticks', never in rounds).
It seems illogical, but your horses are better off with the scruffy dry grass in their pastures than with the beautiful damp clippings from your lawn. If you want to supplement their diet, the item of choice would be hay -- or hay cubes, or even alfalfa pellets! Talk to your vet about this -- about the grass clippings, of course, but also about whether you need to supplement your horses' diet, and, if so, with what. I'm sure you will get good advice.
Back to top.
Jessica Jahiel's HORSE-SENSE is a free, subscriber-supported electronic Q&A email newsletter which deals with all aspects of horses, their management, riding, and training. For more information, please visit www.horse-sense.org
Please visit Jessica Jahiel: Holistic Horsemanship® [www.jessicajahiel.com] for more information on Jessica Jahiel's clinics, video lessons, phone consultations, books, articles, columns, and expert witness and litigation consultant services.