Avoiding the big C and the big F...
I plan on buying a horse within the next year.
While I have riding experience, been taking lessons for the past year, and do a ton of reading about horses every day, I'm still a bit nervous about owning one. I read stories about owners who made mistakes with their horse causing founder or colic and I just can't imagine how horrible that must be.
So I have a few questions. I was reading about colic and I found this:
What Causes Horse Colic?
and it says colic chances increase
But then I'm reading that too much grazing can cause founder.
So how do you find the balance with the two? I know that sweet grass isn't good for grazing. What is the best type of grass for a horse to graze? How do you know when he's grazing too much?
Any particular breeds of horses more likely to colic?
I have a lot of acreage and was hoping to let the horse just live out. I will have a very nice run in shed of course. I just thought it would be nice to let him/her roam and graze all day.
If you do this, I assume you still give hay, correct? How do you know the balance? I get the impression sometimes that there isn't a lot of room for error and that scares me.
I can't seem to find the balance between letting a horse graze enough to not cause colic, but not letting him graze too much as it can cause founder.
It's possible I'm over complicating this! :)
I think you may be putting a bit too much thought into it hun. My horses are on the pasture 24/7...when the grass is thick in spring and they maintain weight I dont give hay, when its thin and they need some extra I give free choice round bales. They stay fit and healthly, I stay happy.
I dont have much issue doing it like this but there are other people who think and do it completely differently and they arent wrong, this just works for me. The way I see it is to try it and if it doesnt work for you change it before a real problem arises.
Colic and founder can be scary indeed but the two times ive had one colic (different horses and completely unrelated, years apart and dif properties) One got oak poisoning from eating wilted leaves after breaking into the pasture we had just cut limbs in and one broke into the feed shed and ate herself sick. Neither was ever caused by grazing too much...your bigger concern would be founder and thats usually (in my experience) only a big issue in spring when the grass is super green, sweet, and lush. Even then I would just limit their grazing some by stalling them or getting a grazing muzzle.
You should be fine, but im sure there is someone who could give you more advice here. This is just my 2 cents. :)
Oh, and pony breeds are usually more prone to founder and weight issues.
I don't have any experience with colic but my mare is a founder risk (unsure if she's foundered before-highly likely she has, very easy keeper, insulin resistant, etc) and she lives on pasture 24/7 with no issues.
I do watch her closely and keep her on a pretty rigorous work schedule (to help those sugars that can cause founder be processed and to keep her weight at an acceptable level) but in the 3 years I've owned her, she's only gotten dangerously fat once and then I restricted her grazing a little bit and she got back into a normal weight range. I do have a grazing muzzle I can use if need be but my mare hates it and will do everything she can to get it off so I try to keep it off her unless it's absolutely necessary.
I'd also advise creating a dry lot (a turn out that has absolutely no vegetation so they're only getting what you feed and nothing extra) where you can stick your horse(s) if their weight starts climbing. That way, if they do become dangerously obese you can get their weight down fast by controlling exactly how much feed they are getting.
Basically, founder isn't something you're really going to have to worry about if you make sure to keep your horse at an appropriate weight (aka not fat/obese) whether you keep him/her in at night, use a grazing muzzle, or just let him/her be. If your horse has a history of founder, that's different, but for the average horse, founder is a relatively distant worry, imo.
I'm not sure about colic, but I can say that in the 14 years I've been around horses, I've only heard of an acquaintance dealing with colic twice. One ended in the death of the horse involved (he had a twist) but I'm inclined to think that colic is another one of those things that we hear about a lot more than it actually happens, because it's so scary. Or maybe I've just been lucky enough to be around exponentially healthy horses, I don't know.
If you have a lot of acreage (and even if you don't, but I think you said you do?) I would advise reading up on rotational grazing. Basically, you take your pasture and divide it into sections so that you never run out of healthy pasture (pastures loooove to turn into mud pits in the winter, even with just a few horses). One of those sections could turn into your dry lot or sacrifice pasture as well.
Anyway, there are some people on this forum who have way more knowledge of these things, hopefully one of them comes along. :)
I have no doubt I'm putting too much thought into it. Thanks for the info!
What got me thinking about it was last night I was reading a post where a person said someone fed their horse grass clippings and the horse foundered.
I just had no idea that a horse could founder so easily and from something like the grass clippings. I don't understand how clippings are different from grass itself.
I wish I could remember who the poster was. Poor woman. How horrible that would be to have a horse un-rideable just like that. And I'm sure the person who fed the clippings thought they were giving the horse a treat.
No worries, I'm a worrier too! That's why I love this forum. There always seems to be someone who knows more than I do!
Actually, generally a foundered horse can still be ridden. It all depends on the severity of the founder (how much did the coffin bone rotate). For instance, my mare, who we're 95% sure has foundered before, has no issues being ridden quite heavily on a regular basis and she's 26! She just didn't founder badly enough to effect her soundness. She also has a very very good hoof trimmer who has balanced her feet out perfectly so that she's moving the way she's supposed to and not how someone thinks she should.
So, in the case of grass clippings lady, it's likely her horse foundered quite severely if she can't ride him/her anymore. :(
I'm not 100% sure why grass clippings cause the issues they do but from what I can recall, it's because they start decaying from pretty much the moment they are cut and in the process of decaying, the sugar in the grass shoots through the roof. Ridiculous amounts of grass sugar is one of the main culprits of founder. A sudden, super sugary, influx of grass clippings can cause a horse to founder because the body cannot possibly process all that sugar effectively, if that makes sense.
From what I understand, generally grass clippings an hour or two after they're cut are ok (because they haven't decayed much) but after a few hours they become very very dangerous. That's why the rule of thumb is that you don't want to feed grass clippings to a horse - you never know how fast they're decaying.
Since normal, uncut, grass is not in a state of decay, there's less of a risk. And that's also why hay is ok even though it's cut - it's not young and sugary like grass and it's been thoroughly dried in a very careful, meticulous, process that makes sure it doesn't decay or start to decay.
I keep my horse at my neighbors and last spring they gave her grass clippings. It was super terrifying for me to come up there and see her eating them. Thankfully, she got after them right after they were thrown over the fence and had no problems (apparently they were fresh enough) but it was so scary! My neighbors had no idea that it could harm her, they just thought she'd like them (which she very much did, haha).
I'm not sure if this is right but i was always under the impression that founder was a lot more common in stabled horses. I've never know anyone that had a horse that foundered on pasture, unless of course they were fed something super sweet or something they are not supposed to have. actually come to think of it i have never personally seen but 1 foundered horese in my whole life and that was a small pony who was not taken care of at all.... so i don't think it's real common. I wouldn't stress out over it :)
It's just strange how something like grass can make a horse so sick!
So the high sugar content in grass can make a horse founder or get colic or both?
Grains are the same right?
I know I've read too much grain can kill a horse but the nerd in me wants to know why and how. Yet if I'm reading something too scientific my brain just shuts off and can't process that much info, lol..
I read another story about a horse that got into the feed shed and into a 40lb bad of grain and ended up dead. Stuff like that just scares the crap out of me.
I just want to know the ins and outs of things before getting a horse. I can remember seeing horses by this farm where we used to ride our bikes. We always stopped and grabbed handfuls of hay and fed it to them. I feel so bad about that now. I had no idea it could have possibly hurt them.
High levels of stress from a horse being very ill (say with a bad colic)
Weight overload on their feet either from being obese or from being sore on one leg and over compensating on the good leg.
Again being obese leading to insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome
Grain overload (usually when they break into the feed shed)
Maybe in the spring, put one of those grazing muzzles on. Learnt about those devices on here, must try it out next spring.
I'm sorry I must sound like a child asking questions. I'm almost 40, I promise, lol.
I know a bit about bloat/gastric torsion because I have a St Bernard mix and I know certain breeds of dogs, mostly large dogs can bloat if they eat too fast and then run around. It's something I'm always watching out for. It's a very big fear among large breed dog owners. Bloat happens so fast and can kill a dog within minutes. Is colic kind of like bloating?
I meant to say, as as kid, we'd stop our bikes and fee the horses handfuls of grass. (Don't know why I said hay).
but that's good to know that regardless, it wouldn't have hurt them. Gosh, I'd feel awful. They'd see us riding up and they'd come running and of course as a kid, feeding a horse or any animal is fun. They're loving it and you're loving it.
That's a good idea about the grazing muzzles. I'm reading that spring grass has the highest content of sugar. The grazing muzzles give them a Hanibal Lector look but hey if it's going to keep them healthy, then they can graze away.
So basically too much grain,too much grass, grass with too high of a sugar content, too rich of a hay like alfalfa can cause founder or cause a horse to colic, or both?
I see that too much weight, stress an obesity can cause founder as well but I was more worried about food as a cause. The food part seems the easiest for an owner to do.
So is it correct to say that the easy keepers would founder or colic easier because they don't have a problem putting on weight?
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