Warning: Lawn Clippings Are Not Good for Horses!

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golden light, originally uploaded by Dan65

It seems a little bit early in the season, but there's no mistaking that sound: the mowers have started. Is there a more sure sign of spring?

I was surprised at how quickly the grass filled in and sprang up here in the Boston (Massachusetts) area. The temperature soared last week, and the grass responded, in spades.

If the sound of mowers is the first sound of spring, the second should be the sound of horse owners explaining to landscapers, lawn crews and neighbors that, while the thought is kind, it is NOT okay to dump mulch mower bags or raked-up grass clippings into horse paddocks or feeders.

Some people will think they are doing some clever recycling and being kind of animals, but the opposite is true.

Wet green lawn clippings are often left in mower bags or in piles, where they start to ferment quickly. A hungry horse will nibble at the clippings, and the fermentation (and the gastric gases it creates) in the gut can be deadly. We won't even talk about the chemicals from herbicides and fertilizers!

Horses can also choke on clumps of grass clippings.

Laminitis might be a risk too, particularly for horses with other risk factors like insulin resistance, and for ponies.

If your turnout borders an area served by a landscape crew, talk to the crew foreman. If you are off at work and leave your horses turned out, consider posting a sign on your fence.

When you arrive home in the evening, check your pastures and paddocks and arenas, especially along any sections facing neighbors or the road to make sure nothing has been dumped.

Consider writing a letter to the editor of your paper, and post this article in your feed store and any stores that sell lawn mowers or at nurseries and farmstands that sell plants.

Chances are, your neighbors and community members are completely unaware of the dangers of grass clippings to horses, ponies, donkeys and mules.

Just a few years ago, I was informed at a party during a chance conversation that a neighbor took great pride in dumping the chemical-filled, fermented piles from his mulching mower into the paddock of a boarding barn where my horse lived. I was speechless, and it flashed through my brain that there had been a few deaths from colic at the farm. Who knows if they could be related or not, but the thought came to mind, nonetheless. You can bet the neighbor doesn't do that anymore.