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New Grass and Founder
New Grass and Founder


As we enjoy the budding trees and flowering dogwoods, we also notice the grass is growing rapidly.  While for many of us this means we can feed less hay as the horses would much rather eat fresh grass than eat dry stem hay.   For those of you who are stool watchers, the fresh grass is causing very wet and often runny manure.   If you are seeing this with your horses, it would be a good idea to keep some dry hay available.  If the stool becomes so loose it is irritating the horse's bowels, they will search out a coarser dry roughage to balance the high-moisture, highly-digestible grass.

If you are feeding a very high quality hay, such as 3rd or 4th cutting alfalfa, be very careful making the transition to grass.  The high protein hay along with the highly-digestible grass can cause intestinal upset.  This is seen as a purging action by the intestine.  The stool will become watery and quickly dehydrate the horse.  The victim can deteriorate very quickly from the dehydration and go into shock.  Keep this in mind when making feed changes.  It is the high protein and highly digestible feedstuffs that irritate the lining of the bowel. Once this irritation begins, the bowel attempts to protect itself by pulling in water.  The bulk of the water stimulates bowel movement as it tries to empty itself.  The end product of all of this is the projectile watery stool.

Mixing the dry hay into the ration or reducing the protein level in the overall ration will help prevent the unpleasantries explained above,

For those of you with horses that might be a little overweight, this is a time when you need to be especially careful.  We are already seeing what we call grass founder. If Dobbin has foundered before or is heavy enough to have fat deposits along the curve of his neck, we need to start thinking about reducing his intake of calories.  This certainly includes the new grass growth of spring. While we do not have space to discuss the condition of grass founder in this week's column, I wanted to remind you to evaluate your horse's condition.  We will spend more time on it next week.

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