IsIS 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?
sorry to be the bearer of this bad news . . . . . . . . . . but not in New Zealand they aren't I'm
Our problem is that 99% of all NZ paddocks are
made up of
PERENNIAL RYEGRASSES as
the major base grass, which consists of a mould inhibitor to reduce the
effects of invertebrate damage on the cow pasture that these
fields were originally deforested for.
Unfortunately this has created 2 POISIONOUS TOXINS FOR OUR HORSES that
live in the Ryegrass called LOLITREM Band EGOVALINE. These are a TOXIC FUNGUS 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.
CLICK ANY PHOTO FOR A LARGER VIEW
Worryingly so, hardly any research into these toxins has been or is currently being carried out within New Zealand-but taking information from other countries including America and Australia, indicates that all NZ horses are exposed to
varying degrees of daily toxins in the various grasses and fungi present in 99% of all pastures and most can cope with a small intake.
However it's when the grass flourishes 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 and New Zealand's temperate climate is just perfect for this growth for these toxins, hence why we have a huge proportion of grass affected horses.
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 it's these toxins that can have various debilitating effects on the horses body, both physical and mentally.
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 NZ 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
And any other grass based food source that you can think of
Another misconception is that these toxins are no longer present in Cut Hay or Chaffs , which unfortunately is not the case :( as they do not cease to be or diminish just because
the grass has been turned into Hay or chopped in to Chaffs etc. They have grown as part of that
plant and therefore are still present in that product such as in the hay even 2 years
Plus unlike humans, because your horse can't vomit or doesn't chew
the cud with 4 stomachs like other stock animals including cows or sheep, this means the horse has no choice but to absorb these toxins directly into his bloodstream as he eats the
effected grasses and this is why horses can be affected so badly and why the symptoms get worse as these mycotoxins build up into the horses
system as the effects are culminative.
So the more affected grasses, chaffs and hays etc...that your
equines eat, the worse the condition gets, until it is treated.
Some of you will find it very hard to even notice that your horse is affected by this as to the untrained eye the initial signs are only slight, but these can have a profound and dangerous effect on even the best trained horse and unwanted behaviour such as suddenly being resistant to being saddled, or spooking at the tiniest thing is often the first time any of you will ever question that something is wrong. Please understand that your horse is probably hallucinating and a blade of grass moving in the breeze could actually look 100m high hence why he is most likely over-reacting.
It's still not clear why some horses will go on to develop the full blown and more obvious version of TOXICOSIS which is better known as STAGGERS which 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 any resistance to our own brand of these particular 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
*MILD TO MODERATE STIFFNESS IN THE HIND QUARTERS, ESPECIALLY THE THIGH AREA
*RESISTANCE TO BEING SADDLED, BEING "GIRTHY" AND DISPLAYING A SOUR FACE WHEN BEING TOUCHED ON THE SHOULDERS, FLANKS AND TORSO
*DARK & OFTEN HOODED
EYES, INCLUDING RED AND ITCHY LOOKING WHITES OF THE EYES
*FIZZY AND AMPLIFIED BEHAVIOUR
*GLAZED AND STARING EYES
*TENDENCY TO OVER-REACT AND SPOOK AT THINGS THAT
PREVIOUSLY NEVER BOTHERED YOUR HORSE
*RETAINING FLUID SHOWN BY SPONGY FEELING FLESH AND INCREASING TO CELLULITE TYPE LIQUID FILLED LUMPS APPEARING UNDER THE SKIN,
ESPECIALLY AT THE RUMP AREA AND SOMETIMES HIVES, THAT ARE OFTEN MIS-DIAGNOSED AS INSECT BITES OR AN ALLERGY
*SKIN TWITCHING AT IMAGINARY
*SWOLLEN LOWER LEGS WHERE THE HOOF MEETS THE
*STRUGGLES TO BACK UP LIKE THE HORSE IS UNAWARE OF HIS HIND END
*FALLING OVER THEIR OWN FEET AND MILD STUMBLING
*COUGHING, WHEEZING AND ALLERGY TYPE REACTIONS
*HORSE LOOKING AT THEIR STOMACH AND DISPLAYING MILD COLIC TYPE SYMPTOMS
*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:
*SWAYING AND FALLING OVER
*SPLAYING OF THE FRONT FEET
*MORE ADVANCED TWITCHING
*WHOLE BODY TREMORS
*COLIC TYPE SYMPTOMS INCLUDING KICKING AT THE STOMACH AND
*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 extremely hardy. whereas "safe horse grasses" don't tend to do well with our hot summers.
So the only real solution to this is to use a quality TOXIN BINDER which works basically like a cloak on the toxins themselves-you
feed this to your horse daily mixed with a little chaff and water and as the horse eats the toxin a YEAST CELL WALL wraps
itself around that toxin like a preventative barrier 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 own research that HARDLY ANY of the
toxin binders on the NZ market are actually clinically proven products that have been researched scientifically to work, therefore we 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 have developed our own broad spectrum, affordable TOXIN BINDER to add to our other affordable NATURAL ORGANIC MINERAL MIX which retails for $18 for the toxin binder,$16 for the minerals and $25 for the these 2 items combined into our ALL IN 1 MIX , which includes all the essential minerals your horse needs for optimum health and sanity. Both are natural products that work well in providing safety from the effects of these dangerous toxins -see our shop page for more info.
We know our mix works as we have seen the positive results on our rescue horses who have so often arrived to us with this condition and are the reason we know so much about 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 be fatal and excruciatingly painful for the horse
WHAT IS 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 hay. . .but we all
have to have dreams hey-lol:)
I genuinely hope this article will help all 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 :)
Please note this advice is not intended to be used in replacement as a professional veterinary examination or care of any sick or injured horse and therefore 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.