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#97888 - 11/26/08 04:19 PM Eating frozen and frosty grass...
TrueColours Offline
Grand Prix Member
Registered: 02/03/03
Posts: 6904
Loc: Wilsonville, Ontario. Canada
Years ago I remember the late Stu Houlding always saying to never allow a horse to eat "frosty grass" and they could colic and die and I always thought it was an "old wives tale" at best and had no credibility

COTH has the same topic going on and this response makes SO much sense:

Quote:
It depends. The statement that no horse should ever eat frosted grass is an oversimplification. Plenty of horses get away with it just fine. When plants freeze, respiration stops, therefore sugar that formed the day before begin to accumulate. A week of freezing nights can double the sugar and fructan content of certain kinds of grass and weeds. Fructan fermentation can cause gas colic and colitis in unadapted horses, and is associated with laminitis. Whether or not one night of freezing temperatures can cause an issue may depend on the susceptibility of the individual animal. But if a horse were prone to gas colic or IBD, this would be a good time to start to get pro-active by decreasing pasture time or putting on a grazing muzzle to limit intake. I sort of wonder about ulcers as well, because new research has shown that carbohydrate fermentation starts in the stomach, causing a drop on pH, but more work needs to be done to prove that it can happen from increase in pasture carbs.

For my severely insulin resistant ponies, the start of freezing temperatures (which will last until the grass is dead) is the decision making trigger for me to pull my ponies off grass completely until it is completely brown and enough rain and snow has washed out the sugars accumulated through the fall freeze.


Now I fully understand why the old horsemen preached to never allow your horses to eat the frozen grass ...

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#97913 - 11/26/08 05:26 PM Re: Eating frozen and frosty grass... [Re: TrueColours]
lippylou Offline
Grand Prix Member
Registered: 10/20/08
Posts: 458
Loc: DUFFERIN COUNTY
How the hell are you supposed to stop them from nibbling? I have seen horses everywhere do it and they haven't dropped dead! They paw at the ground daily. Sorry no offense but this is the most ridiculous story I have heard!
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#97932 - 11/26/08 06:30 PM Re: Eating frozen and frosty grass... [Re: lippylou]
TrueColours Offline
Grand Prix Member
Registered: 02/03/03
Posts: 6904
Loc: Wilsonville, Ontario. Canada
Not really ... think of the theory behind making ice wine. They wait until the grapes are frozen before picking them as they are so concentrated with sugar at that stage. Thats why ice wine is as sweet as it is as well ... wink

And I dont think anyone is talking about nibbling at the odd blade of grass either - its about putting them out in frozen pasture with a good supply of green, frozen grass in there ...



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#97969 - 11/26/08 08:20 PM Re: Eating frozen and frosty grass... [Re: TrueColours]
For Fun Offline
Grand Prix Member
Registered: 01/12/06
Posts: 372
Loc: Sherwood Forest
I think there was a topic like this in the "Ask the Vet" forum but I forget exactly what the reply was.
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#98064 - 11/27/08 07:26 AM Re: Eating frozen and frosty grass... [Re: lippylou]
bd Offline
Grand Prix Member
Registered: 08/29/03
Posts: 3143
Loc: Paris-Woodstock


I think the key word that you missed is "unadapted".

As far as being ridiculous, maybe try taking your ponies down to,say Colorado where this phenomena is maximized and maybe it won't seem so silly after the first vet bills.

I beleive that the amount of sunshine comes into play in this issue as well.There used to be a map on "Safergrass" that showed the parts of the continent where this causes the greatest issue. smile
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#98070 - 11/27/08 08:00 AM Re: Eating frozen and frosty grass... [Re: bd]
6greyponies Offline
Grand Prix Member
Registered: 01/07/08
Posts: 319
Here's McKee Pownell's answer.

This is a great question as I too was told that frozen grass caused colic when I was in pony club many years ago. The risk associated with eating frozen grass has nothing to do with the temperature of it. By the time it reaches the stomach, the grass has been thoroughly chewed and mixed with warm saliva, so it is no colder than any other meal.
There has been a lot of research into the sugar content of grasses as we look for safer ways to feed horses with metabolic problems such as insulin resistance. One thing we have found is that “stressed” grasses (that means drought and freezing temperatures) tend to concentrate high levels of non-structural carbohydrates (sugar). If a horse gobbles down a bellyful of this grass, the intestinal bacteria encounters a bolus of feed with a much higher sugar content than it is adapted to. Bacteria that tend to produce more gas thrive on this type of ingesta, so it is theoretically possible that a horse could get a little gassy and show mild colic signs after a frosty binge.
Don’t worry about it too much, at this time of year there is usually not much grass left and I think it would take some really dedicated pigging out to get anywhere near enough grass to get into trouble.

Melissa McKee DVM

www.mpequine.com
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#98696 - 11/28/08 03:32 PM Re: Eating frozen and frosty grass... [Re: 6greyponies]
coyote ugly Offline
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Registered: 09/27/02
Posts: 698
Loc: ontario,canada
I can attest that it DOES cause bouts of Laminitis , not ridiculous comment at all...it also causes severe gas and diarrhea in our older horses.
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#98705 - 11/28/08 03:53 PM Re: Eating frozen and frosty grass... [Re: coyote ugly]
4XChestnut Offline
Grand Prix Member
Registered: 07/28/08
Posts: 1229
Loc: Ontario
Yes to the sunshine comment. Photosynthesis causes an increase in sugars (fructans) content in grasses, while respiration causes a decrease in fructan content.

Photosynthesis occurs in light, regardless of temperature, but respiration stops once the temperature is below a certain point (zero, or just above zero?). Which means that in the fall and even winter (while the light gets through the snow) photosynthesis and fructan build up continue with reduced to no reduction from respiration.

It's that sugars increase that causes the laminitis. Any high sugars food would cause the same reaction.

What your specific pasture looks like will determine how much of an issue it's going to be for your horse. Lots of grass left = greater risk.
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#98851 - 11/28/08 11:16 PM Re: Eating frozen and frosty grass... [Re: 4XChestnut]
bd Offline
Grand Prix Member
Registered: 08/29/03
Posts: 3143
Loc: Paris-Woodstock


Originally Posted By: 4XChestnut
Yes to the sunshine comment. Photosynthesis causes an increase in sugars (fructans) content in grasses, while respiration causes a decrease in fructan content.

Fructans are not synomonous with sugar are they?Simple sugars are easily broken down in the stomach wheras fructans for the most part must be fermented and therin lies the danger as they move further back in the digestive tract.

Originally Posted By: 4XChestnut
It's that sugars increase that causes the laminitis. Any high sugars food would cause the same reaction.


But again not all sugars are equal.I recall someone not to long ago extolling the virtues of a particular feed as compared to high fat high fiber for a colicky horse.When I checked with the company it turned out to be a relatively high carb feed but processed in such a way as to be highly digestible in the foregut as opposed to the hindgut,much the same as the sugar/fructan situation. smile

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#100172 - 12/02/08 09:26 PM Re: Eating frozen and frosty grass... [Re: lippylou]
Hermie Offline
Grand Prix Member
Registered: 05/14/08
Posts: 475
Loc: simcoe county
Originally Posted By: lippylou
How the hell are you supposed to stop them from nibbling? I have seen horses everywhere do it and they haven't dropped dead! They paw at the ground daily. Sorry no offense but this is the most ridiculous story I have heard!


Lippy, since you changed your name from Jocelyne , I have noticed your comments to be bolder and a little antagonizing.

While you do make valid points on some arguments, perhaps you could lighten the tone a bit. So meany threads are being closed, and they really dont need to be.

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#100222 - 12/03/08 06:59 AM Re: Eating frozen and frosty grass... [Re: Hermie]
TrueColours Offline
Grand Prix Member
Registered: 02/03/03
Posts: 6904
Loc: Wilsonville, Ontario. Canada
As long as I have been around horses for, I find I am STILL learning from them and about them

I had always HEARD they shouldnt eat frozen grass but had no idea why, or if it was simply an "Old Wives Tale" and that was it

Thanks to the original poster on COTH and bd and others who have given us MORE information on this thread, I now understand fully why this can be detrimental to their health and well being

I appreciate your input very much

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#100265 - 12/03/08 09:40 AM Re: Eating frozen and frosty grass... [Re: TrueColours]
Gryphon Equine Offline
Grand Prix Member
Registered: 01/21/07
Posts: 1155
Loc: Toronto and Raleigh
Fructans are a special type of sugar - they are included in the NSC (non-structural carbohydrate) fraction of an analysis, but they aren't digested in the small intestine like normal sugars (glucose, starch, sucrose, etc) are. So - they reach the large intestine and cause havoc (Havoc usually being rampid fermentation resulting in excessive gas and acid production = colic and/or various products - namely vasoactive amines - that are linked with laminitis)
(FYI - the small intestine has an upper limit for overall sugar digestion (even the starchy kinds) so if a horse eats enough simple sugars (gorging on grass or getting into the feed bin) they can still overload the SI and get back to the LI and cause the same havoc issues)
All sugars can increase with photosynthesis, and as mentioned above, if it is cold enough the plant doesn't use the sugars for growth so it just accumulates in the plant.
The laminitis connection (IMO) is twofold. A horse that is IR or sensitive to sugar should be on limited turnout anyway, but should be especially careful at times when sugars are high. But any horse could have a large intenstinal mishap if enough fructans get back there and start getting fermented out of control (when they do studies inducing laminitis by feeding fructans they don't always use fat IR ponies).
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Read: Understanding your Horse's Weight - by Dr. Shannon Pratt-Phillips
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#100274 - 12/03/08 09:48 AM Re: Eating frozen and frosty grass... [Re: lippylou]
Shuffle Offline
Grand Prix Member
Registered: 08/26/05
Posts: 6085
Loc: Ontario
Originally Posted By: lippylou
How the hell are you supposed to stop them from nibbling? I have seen horses everywhere do it and they haven't dropped dead! They paw at the ground daily. Sorry no offense but this is the most ridiculous story I have heard!


Grazing muzzle.
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#100313 - 12/03/08 11:50 AM Re: Eating frozen and frosty grass... [Re: TrueColours]
lcs Offline
Grand Prix Member
Registered: 10/22/00
Posts: 2478
Loc: Ontario
Count me as another somewhat sceptic. If frosty or frozen grass caused all sorts of terrible ailments in horses there would be no wild horses left at all in colder climates and in fact they manage just fine on frozen grass and bark only. Near where I live there are a couple of properties where the horses forage 12 hours a day under the snow.... they look very well fed and in great shape.
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#100445 - 12/03/08 04:59 PM Re: Eating frozen and frosty grass... [Re: lcs]
lippylou Offline
Grand Prix Member
Registered: 10/20/08
Posts: 458
Loc: DUFFERIN COUNTY
So true lcs
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#100457 - 12/03/08 05:29 PM Re: Eating frozen and frosty grass... [Re: lippylou]
Gryphon Equine Offline
Grand Prix Member
Registered: 01/21/07
Posts: 1155
Loc: Toronto and Raleigh
Right - but today's horses are pretty different from wild horses! And the grasses that horses are on these days are much richer than grasses on the plains... not to mention the benefit of walking 20 miles a day on things like overall metabolism... Apples to oranges. That said, I think horses that are healthy and are used to it from being on pasture 24/7 (those microbes in the LI have some adaptive capacities) may be fine on frosty grass. The science just explains why we see issues - but there are exceptions to every rule - it doesn't hurt to be prudent though!
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Shannon Pratt-Phillips, PhD & Vicky Walsh-Nelson, MSc.

Read: Understanding your Horse's Weight - by Dr. Shannon Pratt-Phillips
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#100462 - 12/03/08 05:38 PM Re: Eating frozen and frosty grass... [Re: lcs]
Shuffle Offline
Grand Prix Member
Registered: 08/26/05
Posts: 6085
Loc: Ontario
Originally Posted By: lcs
Count me as another somewhat sKeptic. If frosty or frozen grass caused all sorts of terrible ailments in horses there would be no wild horses left at all in colder climates and in fact they manage just fine on frozen grass and bark only. Near where I live there are a couple of properties where the horses forage 12 hours a day under the snow.... they look very well fed and in great shape.


Wild horses are not in 10 acre fields with fertilized Kentucky Blue Grass wearing a 1600 Denier 500g fill blanket with a hood either. wink
It is nice to know why your horse might be colicking or having his abdomen distended with gas. Some of my horses eat almost pure alfalfa and 16% Sweet Feed plus top dress all in obscene quantities. What works for them would kill the next horse. smile
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#100518 - 12/03/08 07:21 PM Re: Eating frozen and frosty grass... [Re: Gryphon Equine]
lippylou Offline
Grand Prix Member
Registered: 10/20/08
Posts: 458
Loc: DUFFERIN COUNTY
Okay this will shock must of you guys but sorry for some of my first post on this topic.
I have always had my horses and donkeys out 24/7 they have always been healthy with NO PROBLEMS. They eat or paw at the frozen grass all the time.
I will guess problems arise when horses are in stalls all night and live more of a sheltered horse life!
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#100525 - 12/03/08 07:44 PM Re: Eating frozen and frosty grass... [Re: lippylou]
TrueColours Offline
Grand Prix Member
Registered: 02/03/03
Posts: 6904
Loc: Wilsonville, Ontario. Canada
lippylou - I think the correlation might be the same as for those horses that live in an apple orchard and have access to as many apples as they want to eat, 24/7. Their digestive systems adapt and can handle that amount of apples going in and out on a daily basis whereas if I turned MY horses out in that same apple orchard and said "Go at it! have fun! Eat as many as you want!" I'd have horrendous gas colic on my hands very very quickly ...

I would assume that your horse's digestive system has adapted and if they are out in the same field 24/7 the field would be grazed down enough that it isnt considered lush and plentiful at any given time or is that not correct? Do you rotate the fields enough that they always have access to lush pasture?

I would NEVER turn my guys out in the pasture now. It is frozen alfalfa and I'd be very very concerned about colic and/or founder if I did ...
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#100577 - 12/03/08 09:33 PM Re: Eating frozen and frosty grass... [Re: TrueColours]
bd Offline
Grand Prix Member
Registered: 08/29/03
Posts: 3143
Loc: Paris-Woodstock
Originally Posted By: TrueColours
..... the field would be grazed down enough that it isnt considered lush and plentiful at any given time....


Keep in mind that the fructan levels are heightened by stress in the plant.Being chewed down close to the ground is more of a stressor than being lush. Again I beleive if you go and research the data on "Safergrass" you will find that lusher growth and fertilizers used wisely actually reduce the fructan levels by reducing plant stress and causing a dilutiing effect.


All those fructans and sugars that they are eating right now will be burned up heating that snow on the grass into water so the horses don't need to drink anything and they can throw their owners into a tizzy. wink laugh
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#100651 - 12/04/08 07:24 AM Re: Eating frozen and frosty grass... [Re: Hermie]
achangeforhope Offline
Grand Prix Member
Registered: 08/10/07
Posts: 533
Loc: Canada
How long would you suggest putting them out in it.....we recently put up a beautiful paddock with grass still in it,and I do aggree it is alot sweeter,but just curious as to what your thoughts are for time wise, until they get use to it?
Thanks a bunch:)
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#100778 - 12/04/08 01:36 PM Re: Eating frozen and frosty grass... [Re: achangeforhope]
bd Offline
Grand Prix Member
Registered: 08/29/03
Posts: 3143
Loc: Paris-Woodstock


Without knowing any of the variables I would say treat it like spring grass if they have had a break with no pasture.Otherwise it is just a change of feed and treat accordinggly unless you have someone you know has some sensitivity.
If they were our horses here I'd likely just throw them some extra dry hay and let them out,but I know the horses and know what they've been eating. smile


.

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#100782 - 12/04/08 01:40 PM Re: Eating frozen and frosty grass... [Re: bd]
achangeforhope Offline
Grand Prix Member
Registered: 08/10/07
Posts: 533
Loc: Canada
Yea they do have hay out there as well,we just extended our property,and wanted more room for the horses.
I do know hat they are all getting as I feed them lol but just wanted to know as how long,etc.
They seem to be doing very well out there anyways.
We are just slowly working them into the new paddock to get them use to it,so it should work out great!
Thanks.
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#101144 - 12/05/08 10:58 AM Re: Eating frozen and frosty grass... [Re: TrueColours]
lcs Offline
Grand Prix Member
Registered: 10/22/00
Posts: 2478
Loc: Ontario
I was told by a hay farmer not to fertilize my hay field because it made the resulting growth too rich for the horses and I always figured that the manure breaking down is fertilizer anyway. I close my large field off to the horses as soon as the thaw starts for several months in order to protect the new growth. I have always believed that the very act of moving and foraging is good for the horses in so many ways. My guys all come in at night but they spend the days digging under the snow for tibits.
Next year I am going to have to use some weedkiller in the Spring as I have one mare that has problems with gas which seems to be related to broadleaf weeds. She had been fine up till this year but given the wet year that we had the weeds just never quit
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#101164 - 12/05/08 11:29 AM Re: Eating frozen and frosty grass... [Re: lcs]
bd Offline
Grand Prix Member
Registered: 08/29/03
Posts: 3143
Loc: Paris-Woodstock
Do your homework on the fertilizer issue. Me thinks the hay farmer thought you'd buy a little more hay if you had less grass!! wink
Fertilizer is plant food so, just like the food we eat,we need a certain amount of a certain quality to be healthy and still work,grass is no different.
And if you want to strengthen your grass I agree with letting the grass get a good start if you can.There is an old saying that"it takes grass to make grass" and it is so true.In other words if you have no leaf aera to catch sunlight, to produce food for the plant, the plant can not grow to its potential. And that is one of the areas that you might get into trouble with when applying fertilizer,you need to match the amount you apply to the condition of the grass.A lot of fertilzer on grass that was chewed down to the crown is going to be wasted or if taken up in optimal conditions MAY lead to high nitrat levels in the grass until growth gets going.Oops this seems to be turning into a sermon. laugh
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#101256 - 12/05/08 02:47 PM Re: Eating frozen and frosty grass... [Re: bd]
4XChestnut Offline
Grand Prix Member
Registered: 07/28/08
Posts: 1229
Loc: Ontario
Short nibbled grass is higher stressed and thus higher in fructans (think 25-30%), but it's also harder for the (normal) horse to get enough of it to be a problem. Lush spring grass is actually significantly lower in fructans (think 8-12%), but because of the availability horses can eat enough of it to produce fructan overload far more easily.

Thanks bd - yes I know grass sugars are fructans, and not all sugars are fructans. I was trying to keep this complex problem to a simple explanation. smile Yeah, yeah, I know - good luck on that one! wink I know some feeds are formulated to reduce the starch/carb passage into the hindgut too - but most aren't. Yet.
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