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What does Grass Affected mean?

Updated: Aug 26, 2022

We often use the term Grass Affected and we regularly advertise that our Paddock Paradise Track Livery caters for horses who are Grass Affected. We use this term to describe quite a few behaviours and physical issues, but we are aware that not everyone is sure exactly what we mean. So here I want to explain a bit more:

Grass Affected is a term originally coined by Jenny Paterson of Calm Healthy Horses - We work with Jenny and Sue, (the UK representative - Calm Healthy Horses UK - as often they can support us with some of our more complex cases. Like us, Jenny and Sue are champions of the Paddock Paradise livery system and provide lots of useful information to help people to understand the impact that inappropriate forage and feedstuffs has on their horses and what they can do about it.

Jenny and Sue define the Grass Affected horse as one that has issues caused by aspects of their forage and feed and which are adversely affecting the horse’s health, movement and/or behaviour. The term Grass Affected is used because grass is the staple forage for most domesticated horses and therefore usually has the biggest influence over the suitability of the horses’ overall diet. In addition, certain feedstuffs, when fed alongside inappropriate pasture or to horses that have been overly sensitised in the past, can also create Grass Affected issues. Such feeds are things like alfa, soy, processed cereals, seaweed, brewers’ yeast and molasses-based products. These are things that we avoid in our horse’s feeds and why we keep the vast majority of our horses on a grass free regime and feed ad lib meadow hay.

On the Calm Healthy Horses UK website there is a ‘grass affected’ checklist which can help you assess your horse’s status. It is important to recognise that these issues are not a reflection of the horses training, personality or general health but rather are reflective of disturbances in the horse’s biochemistry. We at PB have experienced for ourselves the array of issues found on the checklist when horses are Grass Affected - like head shaking/flicking, respiratory allergies, skin conditions such as mud fever, itchiness, odd lumps or swellings, sunburn, aggressive or explosive, overly spooky and anxious behaviour.

At PB we help these horses back to their normal selves by managing their diet in several ways. On our non-grass Paddock Paradise tracks we can eradicate any access to grass. We do this because our UK grass is too often too rich in sugar, nitrogen and potassium depending on the weather, season, and stage of growth. We replace the grass with a source of high fibre meadow hay, which is fed ad lib and netted to slow down rate of consumption. In the bucket feeds we give a plain feed, salt and the relevant Calm Healthy Horses vits, mins and amino acids (quality protein) according to the individual horse’s needs. For horses who do not receive feeds, we offer salt loose and salt dissolved in water alongside plain water with optional mineral blocks at various places around their tracks.

By doing this we ensure that all our horses get access to the essential nutrition they need so they can thrive as part of a herd within in our paddock paradise environment. With the correct management the horses have no issues.

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