Will Eating Grass Seeds Hurt My Horse?

We are new horse owners who know very little about horses. We've had our horse "Trouble" (a 2-year-old Standardbred-Arabian cross) for almost a week now. A local horseman said it would be fine to dump our two bags of buckwheat, red clover, and twitch grass seed in the exercise area. The problem is that in the last few days, she has completely abandoned her hay bale (it might not be very good hay) and is eating just this stuff. Are these seeds dangerous, and should we should get them out of there?    Rebecca MacKay

The biggest concern I would have about the buckwheat, clover, and twitch grass seeds is since the seeds are generally high in carbohydrate and protein, they might induce colic and diarrhea, and even laminitis if the horse were to eat the seeds in a large quantity.

The buckwheat seed would be of most concern. Depending on the size of the horse, three to 10 pounds of the seed could cause digestive problems just like a horse who overeats a grain ration. Another concern might be that the horse is ingesting a lot of sand from the area when trying to eat the seed from the ground.

My advice would be to limit the horse's grain. You can provide her with some other food source (such as quality hay) with a little grain added to meet her energy needs. Seed already on the ground could be raked thoroughly or tilled to try and disperse the seed and make it less available to the horse.

About the Author

Anthony Knight, BVSc, MS, Dipl. ACVIM

Anthony P. Knight, BVSc, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, is a professor of large animal medicine in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University. He received his veterinary degree from the University of Nairobi, Kenya, in 1968. After completing a master’s degree at Colorado State University, he joined the faculty in 1974. His current professional interests include livestock heath, foreign animal diseases, emergency management, and plant toxicology. He has written two books on poisonous plants of animals in North America, and maintains a poisonous plants website for use by anyone wanting poisonous plant information.

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