What Happens If A Horse Eats too Much Grass?

A horse can eat grass, but can they actually eat too much grass and be okay? What happens if a horse eats too much grass?

If a horse eats too much grass for a long period of time, they will develop abdominal pain known as colic. This condition is very painful for your horse.

Thus, it is best to be moderate with your horse’s consumption when eating grass.

What happens if a horse eats too much grass?

Eating grass is good for your horse as long as they don’t eat too much of it.

When your horse eats too much grass, they can have abdominal pain known as colic.

Therefore, it is important to be moderate in the consumption of grass so your horse doesn’t get this painful condition.

This is done by controlling your horse’s exposure to the grass; you can limit the amount of time that your horse is near the grass.

Grass colic definition

Grass colic is caused by gas buildup in the intestinal tract. It happens when a horse eats too much grass that they aren’t accustomed to.

A horse is also at risk of colic whenever their diet changes.

For example, you may change your horse’s diet to grass, grain, or other food that they aren’t accustomed to.

Symptoms of grass colic

The symptoms of grass colic in horses are:

  • Feeling pain so a horse will kick their stomach
  • Lying down and getting up to feel comfortable
  • Restless
  • Paw at the ground
  • Roll wildly
  • Sweat due to pain
  • A horse’s stomach may make a lot of noise or no noise at all

Treatment of grass colic

Always treat grass colic as a medical emergency where you have to go to the vet immediately if they show any of the mentioned symptoms.

You got to also keep your horse standing up and walking while you wait for your turn.

It’s important to do so because your horse may thrash and roll wildly worsening their condition.

Walking can minimize the pressure on their digestive tract helping your horse feel better.

So, what will a vet do to help your horse? In most cases, a vet will check your horse’s vital signs, insert a tube in their stomach to lessen the pressure, and check for obstruction.

In some severe cases, a horse may have serious pain or have complications in their intestine such as it becoming twisted.

In these cases, it is best to let the vet perform surgery on your horse.

If your horse doesn’t suffer from either case, they will need pain relief medications, hydration through drinking water, and light exercise.

How much grass does a horse eat per day?

A horse can consume 25 Ibs of grass a day. The recommended grass intake for a horse is 1% to 3% of their body weight.

If your horse receives supplementary hay and feed, their huge calorie intake will cause them to pack a few pounds.

Your horse’s calorie intake for grass also depends on their overall health

Can a horse get all of their nutrition just eating grass?

Yes, horses can get all of the nutrition that they need from just eating grass. However, the grass needs to be of top quality.

Also, it differs from one horse to another depending on their type; some horses may need extra nutrition from other sources because they use their energy in a certain job or sport.

Type of grazing

The type of grass is really important when you feed your horse. If you feed your horse high-quality grass that mainly depends on the soil.

A horse’s energy level

If your horse has a very high energy level, they will need to eat other sources such as concentrate along with grass.

Grass takes time to become metabolized. Typically, an energetic horse will need 4kg to 6kg of concentrate and about 3kg of grass a day.  


Some horses may need to take extra supplements such as licks to balance their bodies.

Because not all horses have the same metabolism and needs, they will need to take supplements.

Can you give horses grass clippings?

No, feeding horses grass clippings is a very dangerous thing to do for your horse.

When lawn clippings are fresh, they are fermented. If a horse is given a pile of fresh clippings, they will swallow it very quickly.

When the pile of fresh grass clippings is chopped up really small, the horse swallows them without mixing their saliva with it.

As a result, the grass clippings arrive at the stomach already fermenting without the benefit of the saliva to dilute.

The gases coming from the grass clippings can expand until it bursts suddenly the stomach which is really fatal.

If the grass clippings don’t cause a rupture in the stomach, it can result in colic which will harm your horse’s intestinal tract.

Another disadvantage of grass clippings is that your horse may accidentally eat other poisonous plants as well.

The reason is that the grass clippings have a variety of other plants that are dangerous for your horse chopped in little pieces so a horse can’t detect them.

Also, the grass clipping may have chemicals sprayed on them that your horse will take in when they eat the clippings.

The chemicals will cause your horse really harmful effects.

Is grass or hay better for your horse’s diet?

To know whether wet grass is bad for horses or not. It’s best to look at the content of fresh grass and hay, dried grass.

Fresh grass contains at least 80% water while hay contains only 10% water.

While hay contains more concentrated calories, many horses aren’t overweight when they eat fresh grass because it contains a high amount of water.

Digestion is easier as well with fresh grass because the water in the grass helps the gut ferment the fibers that it contains.

The way that horses eat grass is through eating the grass without eating the dirt that is way downwards on the roots.

If you feed hay to horses instead, a high amount of dirt may be blended in it. This reduces the hay’s taste, causes the horse to inhale dust coming from the hay that irritates the lungs, and can cause an imbalance in mineral intake.

However, if you want to feed your horse hay, you can do so by soaking the hay in water.

Soaking hay in water has many advantages:

  • It prevents choking
  • Makes hay easier to chew and digest
  • Reduces mold, dust, sugar, and potassium found in hay preventing respiratory allergies that horses may develop
  • Removes the dirt found on hay

What to feed horses instead of hay and grass?

Horses can also eat hay which is grass, legumes, or other plants that have been cut and dried to be stored for horses to eat.

Any changes in a horse’s diet should be done gradually over a period of one to two weeks so your horse doesn’t face any digestive problems.

So, what alternatives can horses eat instead of hay or grass? Horses can eat the following:

  • Bagged chopped forage: This is chopped plants and includes browse, herbage, and mast. They can replace hay completely.
  • Hay cubes: These chopped hay cubes are usually made from alfalfa or timothy or a combination and can replace your horse’s diet that depends on the grass. You got to soak the cubes to reduce the risk of choking.
  • Hay pellets: This is forage that has been dehydrated, ground, and cooked to make pellets can also replace grass; however, it doesn’t contain any long-stemmed fiber.
  • Mixtures of grains, forages, vitamins, and minerals: This mixture is full of nutrients that your horse needs. In fact, it contains 15 % more fiber if you don’t feed your horse hay with it. The only drawback is that it will not satisfy your horse’s need to chew.
  • Beet pulp: This is a very high source of digestible fiber for a horse. It has protein and calcium; however, it doesn’t satisfy your horse’s urge to chew. It is recommended that a horse eats no more than 10 pounds per day. If your horse is sensitive to high sugar, look for beet pulp without molasses.
  • Soybean hulls: The soybean’s hulls without the actual soybean contains a lot of fiber. This fiber is highly digestible. It also provides a specific amount of protein that is safe for horses. Soybean hulls can replace your horse eating grass.  

Related questions

1.) Which grass is best for horses and what to avoid?

The types of good grass that are alright for your horse to eat is Crested Dog’s Tail, Brown-Top, Cocksfoot, Prairie Grass, Yorkshire Fog, Timothy, Creeping bluegrass, Qld Bluegrass, Redgrass.

While those that your horse should avoid at all times are Sweet Vernal, Rye Grass & Clover, Kikuyu, Paspalum, Phalaris, Buttercups, and couch grass.

2.) What are the signs of grass sickness in horses?

The signs of grass sickness in horses include an elevated heartbeat, difficulty swallowing, weakness, abnormal salivation, abnormal sweating, gastric reflux, and weight loss.

Share your experience what do you feed your horse?