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What is "Grass Affectedness?"

The term we have come to know of as "Grass Affectedness" is caused by 3 different issues that happen all together for New Zealand horses and include:

1-SUGARS: due to environmental factors and temperate conditions, New Zealand pastures often contain excessively high levels of plant sugars called fructans. Which are contained within the pasture grasses and plants that our horses eat. These cause high blood sugars that lead to various health issues for our horses, along with unwanted excitability due to excess energy-feeding more low sugar grasses in the form of hay, along with some barley straw and less green grass is the best way to help your horse with this aspect of the condition-see this link for more info on this:

2-SOIL CONTENT: mineral imbalances are rife in our New Zealand pastures, which can cause excitability and overreactive behaviours, along with a long list of various health conditions-this can be corrected by using our Natural Horse Equine Vit and Mineral formula, which provides a specially blended mix of vitamins, minerals and amino acids to address shortfalls and plug nutritional gaps that are missing from the soils and feeds to help correct grass affectedness.

Please see this link for our subsided range of supplements:

3-PLANT TOXINS: plants, including grasses, do not want to be eaten by animals-period! Therefore, just like any other animal or organism, their goals are to reach maturity and breed, to pass on their genetic material. So, these plants and grasses have developed a sophisticated system of chemical reactions that deters their demise.  This includes the use of mycotoxins, which is when a symbiotic relationship, using onboard fungi works to deter insects and other animals from ingesting the plants and grasses. The partnership benefits both parties as the fungi are fed through the plant, whilst the plant receives protection by way of the mycotoxins poisoning any grazers who eat them and their hosts. We refer to these types of plant fungi as mycotoxins or aflatoxins. Nettles are a classic example of plants using defensive mechanisms in action. As the nettle plant doesn't want to be eaten or trampled on, so it stings you to deter that effect, whilst other plants make you feel ill from its onboard chemical poisons, that attack the central nervous system, which is what happens with mycotoxins. Unfortunately, these endophytes, as they are also called, have been purposely cross-bred in agriculture to amplify their effects to make them into super strengths to deter invertebrate damage to milk and dairy pastures, as well as make them more drought-tolerant, sadly without any understanding of what that can do to other animals including stock, horses and even us. Now they have been cross-bred into being these "super mycotoxins" they are strong enough to attack the horse's central nervous system and affect the body and mind of the horse, making for a very sick and frightened horse, that can lead to a very unsafe situation indeed for riders, whilst causing serious medical issues and even death for the horse, pony or donkey if left untreated. 

We are a horse rescue centre and we saw this first hand on mass from all the rescue horses who were "grass affected" that we were taking on. So, being scientist based people, we went on to research and develop our own Natural Horse Supplements to help with this and our Equi Protect Formula was born more than 15 years ago now. It can help to detox your horse quickly and easily and protect them from further risks. It is highly subsidized to be affordable to all owners through our centre, as a way to reduce unwanted horses and address behaviour and medical issues that go hand in hand with this phenomenon.

We also highly recommend using a good grass management plan along with our subsidized supplements, such as by break feeding or track grazing to limit your horse's green grass intake, to help your horse recover from these unwanted effects.

Unfortunately, not everyone is aware of the problems caused by grass affectedness, and every year we see more and more horses becoming grass affected, as well many suffering from pasture induced laminitis. This is due to the incredible resilience of these amplified hardy farming grasses taking over more and more of our paddocks, because as often every other type of grass eventually dies out in our long, and often arid summers, it’s these hardy grasses that fill those older grasses place when that happens……hence why we are now up to epidemic levels of issues with horses through 99% of them suffering from the effects of eating from unsuitable non-horse pastures.

So what is the main problem with these new grasses as surely grass is just grass isn’t it?

To put it simply, not all grasses are created equal….and ryegrass as well as other non-brown top breeds of grass, along with many other pasture plants can be an extreme product for horses.

As another big issue, we see caused by horses eating engineered strains of farming grasses is that they are very high in non-digestible plant sugars called fructans. These grasses have been purposely bred and amplified for these traits, in order to pack on weight on beef and dairy animals fast for more profits and higher turnovers. 

 As these grasses contain high-level plant sugars, these can bond together and crystallise, which is another reason why we see so many medical issues occur in our horses, including laminitis. As horses can't digest the fructans (bonded plant sugars), so the stomach acids don't break them down like they do with other foods, and then they end up passing through into the horse's hindgut in their unchanged and undigested form, which can cause a host of issues including making the horse produce more stomach acid, as the body tries it's hardest to break them down, which when this happens is called acidosis.

Acidosis is the leading cause of ulcers, as well as factors as a high risk to colic and can also induce laminitis in equines of all breeds, types and sizes. 

Therefore, this is very bad news indeed for our horses health. Who have evolved over 55 million years to nibble for most of their day on a wide variety of low sugar, high fibre foods such as tussock grasses, shrubs, bark, leaves etc…rather than pig out of these unsuitable sugary grasses.

I guess the only way we can relate would be the example of feeding our horses like this is like a human child living off a diet of candy and Red Bull for every meal. Making for ill-health, excess unwanted energy and negative behaviours as well as digestive upsets and a compromised immune system.

None of which we want for our safe riding partners.

Then to add insult to injury our poor horses are also exposed to a plethora of dangerous mycotoxins contained within so many of these grasses and also in many pasture plants because they are a plant's natural defence systems. To add to this already “grass high” horse and you now have a recipe for disaster in both negative behaviours and poor quality nutrition all causing illness and a very misunderstood horse.

When ingested these poisonous mycotoxins that have grown within the grass, can affect brain function and cause visual dysmorphia, as well as hallucinations, along with a change in body function such as elevated adrenaline levels, and stress hormonal changes as the body tries to cope with being effectively poisoned, along with mass inflammation, plus changes to organs and liver function etc…, with paraesthesia, which is a feeling of tingling sensations, and misfiring electric circuitry happening in the brain, adding to soreness within the body as the nerves are affected by the poisons contained within the mycotoxins making the horse experience feelings that are not really there, and being a prey animal this causes extreme fear and panic within most horses, which is uncontrollable and very dangerous, hence the highly elevated behaviours that go hand in hand with the grass affected horse.

Again put this all into human terms this would involve us having frightening hallucinations and severe paranoia, with perhaps a feeling of insects crawling on our body, hence the phantom flies the poor horse tries to flick off his body…such as we often see with head flicking, which I have written about so we can see how terrified our poor equine friends could be when toxic.......then we can see stiffness in the muscles, especially at the hind end, along with soreness to the skin causing routine tacking up to have major issues such as being girthed up or having the saddle placed on the horses extremely sore body to be very painful indeed, so we see bucking and other uncharacteristic behaviours like biting and flattened ears etc in response to these routine issues from otherwise normally well-behaved horses, in addition to a host of other unpleasant allergy type symptoms as the mycotoxins build up in your horse's body to dangerous levels.

As more of these grasses are sewn for farming and they continue to invade more horse areas, we are seeing increased rates of equines who are being affected growing every year with this being the worst year so far. That is partly due to our ideal grass growing climate here in NZ, along with our over elevated UVA exposures caused by the Ozone Depletion being so close to us, with this year’s very wet and warm spring making matters much worse, as both sugars grow and fungi thrive off moisture.

Now you know the effects, what can we do to help our horses cope with these grass issues…?

FIRSTLY and more importantly –please do not tell your toxic horse off if he overreacts… won’t help and will only serve to scare his already fragile state of mind more. As he is suffering from a very real medical condition that affects his mind and is not being silly or naughty etc…, we ask that you please have a little empathy for him or her. AND PLEASE DO NOT RIDE A TOXIC HORSE –EVER! That means regardless of whether you have a show or anything else planned that you might think is essential to ride for, it is still a big NO-NO, as it’s simply just too dangerous. So, we implore you not to ride your horse for your own safety when he is like this as he could even kill you, albeit it would be by accident.

SECONDLY -give your horse a supplement to prevent absorption of toxins….this really is an essential component of 99.9% of NZ horses staple diets these days, as a quality Detoxifier will help to reduce the absorption of these dangerous toxins in the horse's body, stopping these unwanted effects from building up. A warning here though- sadly we have seen and heard of many outfits selling so-called toxin binders to unsuspecting horse owners who have little or no toxin binder qualities in them…so please check for glucomannan, zeolite, clays and natural toxin binding extracts in combination in the products that you buy. As we have found that it is this combination that works most effectively and without it, you would be simply wasting your hard-earned money. Another issue I saw this week was a product aimed at the after-effects of horses being toxic which I was appalled to see was over $100 for a small bottle and had absolutely zero science to support its claims which, to be honest, were nonsense. So again please be careful to not fall for these scams. Here at Natural Horse NZ, we have developed our own Natural Detox Supplement which includes plant extracts known for their toxin binder qualities including milk thistle. We are proud of our supplements and our long list of happy customers continue to tell us that they think it is the best binders on the market, that is both affordable and effective, as we subsidize its costs to encourage more owners to use it to prevent more horses from spiralling down to become unwanted rescue horses as part of our horse rescue prevention program. We have received outstanding feedback from all who have used it-so check it out on this link:

THIRDLY-restrict green grass to a minimum, especially during high grass growth times of yar including spring, early summer and autumn. as to reduce sugars as that’s half of the battle won for equine health for our NZ horse or pony. Then feed plain meadow hay (NOT LUCERNE) combined with a mix of 50-50 with barley straw in a slow feed hay net as to replicate natural grazing….but you don't need to lock the horse up to do this. We can achieve this by taping off a track system to allow the horse to enjoy the freedom of being outside with his buddies etc… without the nightmare of having too much green grass…see this link for more on this…

AND LASTLY: make sure you are feeding a well-balanced multi-mineral/vitamin mix along with an anti-inflammatory diet, as can be found on this link as this will help your horse get all the beneficial nutrients he needs to help him reduce inflammations in his body that comes from eating sugary grass and other toxic products such as hay, chaffs, silage, balage, haylage and grain-based pelleted bagged feeds. See this link for more info to help with diet..

We sincerely hope this will help you understand the issues your horse is going through, as to help you have a happier horse 🙂