Topics : Pastures : Pasture and Hay for Horses
Pasture and Hay for Horses
Download the Pasture and Hay for Horses document in Adobe PDF format.
Additional pasture information via the Forage Information System (FIS)
Health Concerns when Feeding Forages to Horses
Horses are extremely susceptible to molds, fungi, and other sources of toxic substances in forage. Mold problems generally occur in hay that has been baled at too high a moisture level (20% or more) without the use of a preservative. This is especially a problem with first cutting hay because it is harvested during a period of time when it rains frequently and the weather conditions are less than ideal for hay drying.
Always use clean, unmoldy forages when feeding horses. In addition to molds and fungi, some forage species contain chemical compounds that can have negative health effects on horses.
Another health problem could occur when horses are fed hay that contains blister beetles. When consumed, the beetle causes irritation to the lining of the digestive tract which usually results in death. Alfalfa hay that has been produced in southern areas of the U.S. is most generally associated with the potential to contain blister beetles. Do not feed any hay containing blister beetles to horses! Poisonous plants in pastures or hay can be fatal to horses. Ornamental shrubs and nightshade are the most common poisonous plants in Pennsylvania. However, any plant that is known to be poisonous to other animals is probably poisonous to horses. Some poisonous plants are highly palatable and should be identified and removed from pastures. However, many poisonous plants are not palatable and horses will not eat them unless there is inadequate forage available to meet their needs.