Thursday, May 14, 2009

Warning: Lawn Clippings Are Not Good for Horses!

by Fran Jurga | 14 May 2009 | Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog

Golden Light, originally uploaded by Dan65

Vet and farrier readers: This post is your clients--please share!

There’s no mistaking that sound: the mowers have started. Is there a more sure sign of summer?

If the sound of mowers is the first sound of summer, the second should be the sound of horse owners explaining to landscapers, lawn crews and neighbors that, while the thought is kind, it is NOT okay to dump mulch mower bags or raked-up grass clippings into horse paddocks or feeders.

Some people will think they are doing some clever recycling and being kind of animals, but the opposite is true.

Wet green lawn clippings are often left in mower bags or in piles, where they start to ferment quickly. A hungry horse will nibble at the clippings, and the fermentation (and the gastric gases it creates) in the gut can be deadly. We won’t even talk about the chemicals from herbicides and fertilizers!

Horses can also choke on clumps of grass clippings.

Laminitis might be a real risk too, particularly for horses with other considerations like insulin resistance, and for ponies.

Here are some suggestions, especially if you have horses that are at risk for colic or laminitis problems:

If your turnout borders an area served by a landscape crew, talk to the crew foreman. If you are off at work and leave your horses turned out, consider posting a sign on your fence.

If possible, make sure that town and county road maintenance crews that mow roadsides and median strips know not to dump trimmings into horse pastures.

When you arrive home in the evening, check your pastures, paddocks and arenas, especially along any sections facing neighbors or the road to make sure nothing has been dumped.

Consider writing a letter to the editor of your local paper, and post this article in your feed store and any stores that sell lawn mowers or at nurseries and farmstands that sell plants.

Chances are, your neighbors and community members are completely unaware of the dangers of grass clippings to horses, ponies, donkeys and mules. Remember, they probably mean well.

Do you have experiences with horses suffering the ill effects of grass clippings? Or neighborhood relations suffering? I know this is sort of a suburban issue, but that is where so many of our horses live these days...or the suburbs have come to them!

I was at a party once when a gentleman came up to me and smugly introduced himself as a neighbor to the boarding farm where my horse was living. He informed me that he was kind to animals and dumped the clippings of his vast chemical green carpet into my mare's paddock. I was speechless, and had to be, as the farm's relationship in the neighborhood was at stake. You might need that neighbor at a zoning or board of health meeting sometime.

© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing. No use without permission. You only need to ask.

Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page).

To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site,, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found.

Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to