PERSIMMONS, ACORNS, AND NEW GRASS.
PERSIMMONS, ACORNS, AND NEW GRASS.
Our topic today is overeating in the fall . . .
While overeating on persimmons and acorns has the potential for serious problems for the horse, more will have problems with the grass that grows after the start of fall rains.  All of the horses that were at risk last spring and especially those who did show signs of laminitis (founder), will be at risk this fall.
At the moment the grass has been come very mature.  We have had a dry spell which left the grass brown and high in fiber. Even heavy horses can graze on this with little risk of foundering.  But with the first significant rain, new growth will appear. These tender leaves have a higher moisture content and are low in fiber. This makes them very digestible.
The overweight, older horse will maintain himself (there are far more geldings than mares affected) on the dry grass, which basically provides roughage. Then after the rain, when the new grass grows enough to make a mouthful, one full meal will provide enough energy to tilt him into the condition of laminitis.
To prevent Dobbin from foundering, which can lead to a long (often up to a year) recovery, be alert to the growth of new grass. When the pastures turn green, pull him off the grass and maintain him on dry, low quality hay.  If you have a few bales of last year's first cutting fescue, you are in great shape. We want him to have a feed that burns more calories being digested than it provides through digestion (I think this is the green bean theory).  Unless his life style suddenly changes, resulting in increased exercise, he only needs enough feed to keep his bowels active.
Each year we see a few cases of digestive upset brought on by overindulgence of persimmons and acorns. The affect they have differs, but overeating on either is a behavioral problem. While a herd of horses may be running together, only one or two adventurous ones will become sick.  The rest will consume a few mouthfuls of each food but not enough of any one to cause trouble. There will be a character or two in every group that becomes attracted to one of these foodstuffs. As soon as they cross the gate into the field, they will sprint to the trees so they can eat what ever has fallen since the last visit.
The results of overeating persimmons is usually impaction from the seeds. The fruit rapidly matures after falling from the tree and the fallen fruit is soft and rapidly digested.  The seeds, however, are not digested and will accumulate in the stomach and bowel. The build up of these hard seeds will prevent the movement of the other feeds and start causing signs of colic for the horse, and of course distress for his owner.
Acorns cause problems due to their high protein content. The presence of large amounts of high protein causes irritation to the lining of the bowel.  As a result, fluid will be drawn into the bowel to dilute the foreign material and provide a means for removing it. The irritation from the protein and the bulk of the additional fluid will cause increased activity.  The resulting diarrhea can be severe, with dehydration and even shock as the body attempts to deal with the drop in water content and the inflammation of the bowel from the protein.
If the horse that becomes an "acorn hound" glutton makes himself known (surely there will be more males than females), he may need to be locked out of the fields where either acorns or persimmons are located.  A less drastic move is to feed a hay meal before turning him into the field.  The hay will act as both a buffer to the new material and as a filler to prevent the horse from eating as much.  Unfortunately, the hay will have to be good enough quality to stimulate the horse to eat it.  If it is possible to do so, locking the horse away from the trees is the best approach.  The persimmons do not stay around long after falling. The acorns will decompose over a period of weeks and usually are not a problem after they have been frozen.
We should be aware of the presence of the persimmon or acorn trees. If they are in the pasture, be alert for the horse that develops a craving for one of the fruits. Since the risks from overeating are great enough to make prevention worthwhile, the time spent blocking access to these trees is well spent.  Once the trees are bare the problem is eliminated and we can start anticipating the challenges presented by cold weather!

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