Every couple of years a “kindly” landscaper or home owner offers our horses grass clippings from their lawns. Their intentions are good, but the consequences to horses can be severe.
Yes, horses eat grass, so why not grass clippings? There are several reasons why it’s not a good idea:
- When grass is mown and especially when it’s bagged, the clippings can start to ferment and mold which can cause problems such as colic if your horse eats them.
- Because the cut grass is easily consumed, it encourages horses to eat too rapidly and swallow without much chewing. This can result in choke.
- The small particle size of the clippings can cause rapid fermentation in the horse’s digestive system. This can potentially lead to colic, or can cause laminitis if the horse isn’t used to grass.
- Lawns often are treated with chemicals that can be harmful to horses.
- Lawn clippings can contain bits and pieces of ornamental plants like oleander or Japanese yew, which are highly toxic to horses.
- The turf grasses used for lawns generally aren’t nutritionally balanced for horses any way so they wouldn’t be a good choice to feed.
There is a difference when you are talking about the clippings that result from mown pasture. This situation is unlikely to cause the types of problems listed above. For one thing, it’s the same grass that they normally eat, so it will not contain fertilizers or pesticides. Since the clippings are not bagged, they will generally dry and become like hay or straw, rather than mold or ferment and because they are spread around the pasture, there is no risk for choke. While some people choose to keep their horses off freshly mown fields for 12-24 hours as a precaution, the risks are generally very low.