What causes grass staggers? and is there ways to prevent it?

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What causes grass staggers? and is there ways to prevent it?

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  • Draft horse stagger
  • Grass staggers horse

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    12-14-2010, 06:34 PM
Post What causes grass staggers? and is there ways to prevent it?

I have a mare, that I have had for two and a half years now, she is 25, 15.2hh, and on a diet of grass, hay, and water.
But, when I bought her, the owners neglected to tell me she was very prone to getting grass staggers, so badly that they frequently had the vet out to her because she would go down, and wouldn't/couldn't get up. Or they would load her into the float, and by the time they got to a show she was "drunk" as they called it.
But I am on dairy pasture, and while she has been with me she has never once staggered even slightly. But this summer has only just started and the ground and grass is already very dry. I know what staggers is, and I know dad's cows get it during most summers when it is dry, but what causes it in horses? And is there anything I can do with her, or feed to her, to prevent it or lessen the effects? I figured I would ask now before she has a chance to get staggers, so I can get in ahead of time and help her out, I don't know about you but I wouldn't like trying to walk around drunk 24/7, so my guess is, neither will my horse!

We have a lot of hay here, and because we have cows and calves we have things like palm kernel, which I have been told is fine to feed to horses, but only a little, and only if it is shed stored, which ours is. (but I haven't tried feeding it to any of my horses as of yet)
We also have chaff, the one that horses can eat (I read the bag).
Would magnesium help?
And if she does get stagger's, what can I do to make her more comfortable until the vet can get out?
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    12-14-2010, 09:36 PM
Grass staggers is related directly to Perennial Rye grass, isn't it? Take away one, the other goes away.
    12-14-2010, 10:09 PM
I wouldn't have a clue what it's related to lol that's why I asked.
I know the cows get it here, but only when the grass is dry. So I'm wondering if Bubbles will get it this year because it is definitely drier than previous summers, already the grass has dried out.
She is also in a paddock up the road where she hasn't been before, and I had to walk her 1km up the road to get her there, and so far *touch wood* she hasn't shown any signs of staggers.
However i'm getting paranoid about heat exhaustion now, her current paddock has hardly any shade in it, so I will be checking her more frequently, being the older slightly unfit horse she is at the moment.
    12-14-2010, 10:21 PM
I just googled it. Perennial Rye grass has something to it that creates a natural mold in the grass. I guess more-so than other grasses. It's the mold, not the grass that causes the staggers. Unfortunately, a lot of commercial grass seed mixes now come with the same coating that produces that mold, so we have to be more and more careful about not seeding with it. Just google it and you'll find tons of info. Sorry I can't help more. I'd never heard of it until you posted. That's a weird one.
    12-15-2010, 01:10 AM
So would that mean that if my paddocks weren't being re-seeded, and Bubbles hasn't staggered on this grass before, that she should be alright? The horse paddocks haven't been re-seeded since I have had horses in them, they haven't needed it.
Just thought I would ask here because I don't particularly want to pay $100 + to talk to a vet about it, when I could use that $100 + if it's needed later on for a vet for whatever reason.
Thanks =)
Really? It's pretty common here but not many people are willing to talk about it or help others out unless it's "give that horse a smart smack for that!" or "ride it while it's sore, it wont be able to do anything" <my horses have a name and a gender, and no I will not ride him/her while they are sore, because they WILL buck etc. (great community this one, not!!)
    12-15-2010, 06:46 AM
Green Broke
Where are you from? I've never heard of this before either. Does it only make a horse stagger or can it kill? Wow. I would keep an eye on your pastures and paddocks because even though its not seeded with that grass, sometimes the wind and elements can carry seeds.
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    12-16-2010, 01:03 AM
Where are you from? I've never heard of this before either. Does it only make a horse stagger or can it kill? Wow. I would keep an eye on your pastures and paddocks because even though its not seeded with that grass, sometimes the wind and elements can carry seeds.
I'm from New Zealand, it's pretty common here it's just like an equine version of being drunk haha. It's first noticable when they start quivering their legs upon lifting or moving them or if the legs "ping" up when they are shifted. And they get quite wobbly on their hooves and if it gets bad enough they can go down and not be able to get up, which has happened to bubbles numerous times before I bought her, but not once since I've had her.
They had the vet out all the time because bubbles either wouldn't or couldn't get up.
So aswell as not being able to ride a staggering horse, I can't imagine it to be very comfortable walking around wobbly all day, I know I don't like the feeling of being drunk and wobbly, so neither would any horses lol.
I'm not sure if it can kill or not, I guess it could if it got bad enough, but I haven't heard of a fatal case of staggers yet *touch wood*.

That's very true and we are surrounded by hills with different grass than ours, I check on her twice a day because she's not at my house anymore; she's only 500m up the road but I still check on her to make sure there's no signs of it.

I have been told if a horse gets staggery that you can give him/her apple cidar vinegar and that helps to get rid of it, I don't know why but it does.
And a friend told me a few days ago that it might be an idea to feed her oil and magnesium powder with her feed, because if magnesium is fed on it's own, or in liquid form it goes straight through without absorbing into the body, whereas if you feed the powder with the oil, the oil causes the powder to stick to the stomach lining thus helping it to stay longer and absorb through the horses system.

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