Anyone who has ever ridden along a trail or through a pasture on horseback knows the wonderful feeling of freedom and enjoyment of nature these wonderful creatures provide. The feeling of being one with the horse is unsurpassed and is a special joy if the horse is one with whom the rider shares a special bond or relationship.
Although the enjoyment and delight of owning a horse is exceptionally rewarding, it is only one aspect of being involved with horses. Those who love and keep horses have not only a special friendship with them but also a responsibility for their health and welfare.
Spring Grass Caution
Horses have evolved to run free for long distances and need room to roam and plenty of fresh air and exercise. They also love to graze and have digestive systems that are normally equipped to handle the grass they forage. Spring grass, however, is high in sugar content and some horses may overindulge and get too much of a good, tasty treat. The increase in sunshine and rain also produces excess potassium in spring grass. If a horse has extra potassium in its system from eating the grass, the magnesium uptake will be reduced, leaving it deficient in this nutrient.
The excess sugar in the spring grass coupled with the increase in potassium can cause an imbalance in vitamins and minerals. It may also upset the natural bacteria in a horse’s intestines. If this should this happen, symptoms may occur such as excitability, stress, diarrhea and muscle soreness. Spring grass also has a mycotoxin fungus on it that cannot be seen but affects the horse when too much is eaten. While some horses seem to be immune to this fungus, others who are sensitive have reactions. It can cause abnormal behavior, anxiety, diarrhea and skin problems.
For the sake of equine health, a horse owner must carefully observe the horse and if any of these signs occur after spring grass has been eaten, there are several options for correcting the problem. The best course of action is to keep the horse away from spring grass for a time and just give it hay and regular food. If this is not possible, then a supplement that binds the toxin may be given.
The best supplement is a combination that includes St. John’s Wort, magnesium and B Complex Vitamins B1 and B6. The ingredients will help prevent discomfort and undesirable behavior caused by the nutritional deficiency. Use a quality binder, as the least expensive kind may not have the strength to be effective. Prompt treatment and support will have an equine companion back to normal health and vigor within a few weeks. It is always best, of course, to consult a licensed veterinarian for optimum animal health.