Yard Waste - A Danger to Horses

Alsike clover - A plant that's toxic to horses.
Alsike clover - A plant that's toxic to horses. Colorado State University

Newsdate: Tuesday, October 5, 2021 - 11:35 am
Location: UNIVERSITY PARK, Pennsylvania

Do not toss yard waste over the horse's fence!

Horse's nose and muzzle damaged by photosensitivity due to ingesting Alsike clover.

Horse's nose and muzzle damaged by photosensitivity due to ingesting Alsike clover

Many people think that dumping or throwing yard clippings and trimmings over the fence will be a treat for the horse, but, unfortunately, they may endanger the horse's health.
© 2021 by Colorado State University New window.

As horse owners, we spend a lot of time and effort making sure our horses are healthy and well cared for. However, a simple mistake by a family member or neighbor could be disastrous.

In urban and suburban areas where your neighbors may not be familiar with horses, it is important to make sure they know not to throw anything over your fence into your horse paddocks. The same goes for any family members or gardeners who care for the yard. Grass clippings and trimmings from common landscape plants can be major problems for your horses.

Grass Clippings

Many people think that dumping fresh lawn clippings over the fence will be a tasty treat for your horses. Unfortunately, they can lead to a number of health problems.

  1. Any dietary changes should be made gradually to avoid digestive upset like colic. Large quantities of grass clippings would count as a different feed source, especially if your horses consume them rapidly or are on a dry lot. Therefore, feeding grass clippings can lead to increased risk of colic.
  2. The small particle size and high carbohydrate content of lawn grass clippings make them highly digestible. When horses gorge themselves on feeds like this, it can cause rapid fermentation in the hindgut, leading to acidosis and possibly laminitis (similar to a horse getting into the feed bin).
  3. A large pile of grass clippings is very easy for horses to bolt (eat quickly). This presents a risk of choke, or feed getting stuck in the horse's esophagus, which requires veterinary assistance to resolve.
  4. Piles of wet grass clippings may mold and ferment in warm weather, increasing risk of colic.
  5. If you have a horse with a metabolic disorder such as insulin resistance or Equine Metabolic
  6. Syndrome, the lawn clippings may be far too high in non-structural carbohydrates (sugars, starch, fructan) and could trigger an episode of laminitis.
  7. Lawns may be treated with chemicals that are not approved for use with grazing animals. Pasture managers must pay careful attention to product selection and grazing intervals when using these chemicals, but your well-meaning neighbor may not consider this. Lawn/turf herbicides have not been tested for safety with grazing animals.
  8. Clippings from regular pasture mowing are less of a concern as long as they are evenly spread out and dry quickly. More frequent mowing creates less cut grass residue, which dries faster.

    Yard Trimmings

The green leaves and stems of freshly pruned shrubs may also seem like a nice treat for horses. However, many ornamental plants are toxic to horses.

See complete article on dangers of yard waste for horses HERE

Press release by Laura Kenny - Penn State Extension

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