IS YOUR HORSE AFFECTED BY GRASS?What do you mean is my horse grass affected I hear you say-He's a horse-surely aren't they meant to eat grass?Well I'm sorry to be the bearer of this bad news . . . . . . . . . . but not in New Zealand they aren't I'm afraid!
Our problem is that 99% of all NZ paddocks are made up of PERENNIAL RYEGRASSES as the major base grass, which has been consists of a mould inhibitor to reduce the effects of invertebrate damage on the precious cow pastures that these fields were originally made for.
Unfortunately this has created 2 POISIONOUS TOXINS FOR OUR HORSES that live in the Ryegrass calledLOLITREM B andEGOVALINE. These are aTOXIC FUNGI that live on the grass as the host plant, very much like a parasite. They are present in the root and the leaf sheaths with their highest content being in the seed-heads of the grass.
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Research has estimated that all NZ horses are exposed to varying degrees of daily toxins but it's when the grass flourished through a mixture of warmer days and then rain, like in spring or autumn (or as in 2012 for most of our summer) that these toxins get completely out of control and are often too much for our horses to cope with.
This results in a relatively unknown condition called TOXICOSIS which is basically another term for toxin poisoning. Other words for these toxins are mycotoxins and endophytes but it all really boils down to the same thing-POISONS! and these can have various debilitating effects on the horses body, both physical and mentally.
AND SHOCKINGLY SO, WE HAVE FOUND THAT MOST HORSE OWNERS, VETS AND OTHER PROFESSIONAL EQUINE PRACTITIONERS DON'T EVEN ACKNOWLEDGE OR KNOW THAT THIS CONDITION EVEN EXISTS AND THEREFORE THE HORSE IS NOT TREATED CORRECTLY FOR THIS AND IT IS EVEN OFTEN NOTED AS "NAUGHTYNESS" OR "BEHAVIOURAL PROBLEMS" WHICH WE ARE DISCOVERING IS SO OFTEN INCORRECT.
The worse news for horse owners is that there is no way out of feeding these toxins to your horses as they are present in 99.9% of all NZ GRASSES AND GRASS PRODUCTS including:
Green grass pasture
Hay and Hay bi-products
Grains and most pellets including bagged horse feeds
Damp Forage feeds like Fibrepro and Lucerne
And any other grass based food source that you can think of
These toxins do not cease to be or diminish just because the grass has been turned into Hay or Chaff etc. They have grown as part of that plant and therefore are still present in that product such as in the hay even years later.
Plus unlike humans, because your horse can't vomit or doesn't chew the cud with 4 stomachs like other large stock animals like cows or sheep, this means his only choice is to absorb these toxins into directly into his bloodstream as he eats the effected grasses and this is where the symptoms get worse as these mycotoxins build up into the horses system as the effects are culminative.
So the more effected grass, chaffs and hays your equines eat, the worse the condition gets until it is treated. Some horses will then go on to develop the full blown and more obvious version of TOXICOSIS which is better known as STAGGERS and can be lethal especially if your horse fatally hurts himself due to a fall or goes into toxic shock.
A plausible theory is that the worst affected horses tend to be 1st or 2nd Generation horses that are relatively recent editions to New Zealand so they have not had chance to develop a resistance to these toxins, hence why some horses are more affected than others.
These are some of first signs of this condition although not all symptoms will be present in all horses as some horses are more effected than others :
*DARK & OFTEN HOODED EYES
*GLAZED AND STARING EYES
*TENDENCY TO OVER-REACT AND SPOOK AT THINGS THAT PREVIOUSLY NEVER BOTHERED YOUR HORSE
*CELLULITE TYPE LIQUID FILLED LUMPS UNDER THE SKIN, ESPECIALLY AT THE RUMP AREA
*SKIN TWITCHING AT IMAGINARY FLIES
*SWOLLEN LOWER LEGS WHERE THE HOOF MEETS THE LEG*MILD TO MODERATE STIFFNESS IN HIND QUARTERS
*FALLING OVER THEIR OWN FEET AND MILD STUMBLING
*RESISTANCE TO BEING SADDLED OR T
*UNCHARACTERISTIC BEHAVIOUR IN GENERAL*FIRST SIGNS OF TOXICOSIS OFTEN LOOK SIMILAR TO LAMINITIS AND A LOT OF VETS INCORRECTLY DIAGNOSE THIS TOO
Advanced symptoms are:
*SPLAYING OF THE FRONT FEET
*MORE ADVANCED TWITCHING
*WHOLE BODY TREMORS
*COLIC TYPE SYMPTOMS INCLUDING KICKING AT THE STOMACH AND ROLLING *AND EVEN DEATH
SO HOW CAN WE CONTROL THIS . . . . . .?
Firstly we cannot NOT feed our horses these toxins and even re-sewing pastures has only had limited success as the ryegrass often returns back to invade as it's so hardy.
So the only real solution to this is to use a TOXIN BINDER which works basically like a cloak on the toxins themselves-you feed this to your horse daily and as the horse eats the toxin a YEAST CELL wraps itself around that toxin like a preventative wall and stops the horses body absorbing any negative effects of the poison itself and then it's passed with the manure harmlessly.
We feed a quality toxin binder daily all year around and increase this at peak danger times.
Shockingly we discovered through our research that HARDLY ANY of the toxin binders on the NZ market are actually clinically proven products that have been researched scientifically to work and advise against spending heaps of money on these as their effects can vary plus we get very fed up of high corporate companies taking advantage of worried horse owners who are trying to help their horses and blatantly just profiteering from this.
So it's for these reasons that we are currently in the middle of developing our own affordable toxin binder to add to our other affordable NATURAL MINERAL MIX and we will retail this as an ALL-IN-ONE supplement for your horses at approximately the end of March/Early April 2012 for around nearly half price of other similar products.
This will be available within the next few weeks and we know our mix works as we have seen the positive results on our rescue horses who have arrived to us with this condition and are the reason we know so much about the Mycotoxins effects in the first place.
In addition to using a quality toxin binders, we advise also to try to restrict the amount of time your horse spends on green pastures anyway as no matter how short the grass is it still causes problems in addition to TOXICOSIS which are mainly the over production of sugars.
I know that it's hard to believe that leafy green grass is full of sugars but it honestly is, which is why a 1000kg draft horse can live off the stuff in the first place!
Therefore just like children living off sweets, your horse will behave negatively to a high sugar diet, which can also lead to conditions like insulin resistance and LAMINITIS, which can also be fatal and excruciatingly painful for the horse :(
LAMINITIS-well the best way to get your head around this condition is to think of it like this-YOUR HORSE IS A DIABETIC which means sugar will make him very ill and possibly even kill him AND GRASS IS A BIG FIELD FULL OF SUGARY LOLLIES!
So if you have a horse living on full time grass it's perhaps time to re-think your grazing strategies, because as you are now hopefully aware, it's not just small fat ponies who have problems on it?
Personally if I had my way I would kill every last blade of Ryegrass off within every horse pasture and graze on a dry pasture with timothy hay. . .but we all have to have dreams hey-lol:)
I genuinely hope this article will help horse owners out there and if you are having grass issues with your horses please feel free to contact me as I am always happy to help in anyway possible as it's always about the horse for me.
May all your horse days be happy ones :) Tracy from www.naturalhorse.co.nz
Please note this advise is not intended to be used in replacement as a professional vetinary examination of any sick or injured horse and NATURAL HORSE NZ will not be responsible for any illness or injury to your equine for you failing to seek the correct medical assistance thereof.