What makes spring manure messy

A change in season and diet may affect your horse's digestive system.

Loose manure seems to be an annual, messy rite of spring. Slightly soft to downright watery stool is typically a sign that a horse has indulged in too much new pasture too quickly. Not only does spring grass have a higher water content than the hay your horse ate all winter, but its higher carbohydrate levels pull more fluid into the gut, and some ends up in the stool.

Bay (brown and black) Quarter Horse grazing in a springtime pasture. The trees in the background are blooming, and yellow dandelions are in the pasture. A white rail fence borders the pasture.

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Beyond the mess, runny spring manure is a warning sign that your horse’s system is having a hard time coping with the seasonal dietary change. This trouble, in some susceptible horses, could lead to more serious problems such as laminitis or colic.

If your horse has messy manure in the spring, pull him off pasture until he returns to normal and then slowly reintroduce grazing. Given the opportunity, most equine guts will adjust over several days. If your horse still has trouble after gradual reintroduction to pasture grass, consult with your veterinarian to rule out an underlying problem. 

This article first appeared in the EQUUS issue #476

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