We are seeing more and more reports of people purchasing ‘Horse friendly’ seed mixes only to find that the mix is totally unsuitable due to it being some guy at the seed merchants’ idea that low endophyte rye and white clover (or red) are fine for horses.
The picture of the paddock that is a ‘sea of white clover’ is what sprouted when a paddock was sown with a ‘horse-friendly’ mix. This wouldn’t be safe for any livestock let alone horses!
CLOVER is unsuitable forage for horses and although rye-grass is OK in SMALL quantities, the fact it is low-endophyte or endophyte free (which produce myco-toxins) does not render it suitable for horses.. Endophytes which produce mycotoxins are only one of the many reasons rye-grass/clover pastures play havoc with the horse’s metabolism.
Mineral imbalances, sugar content, fructans, photodynamic pigments which cause mud-fever & sunburn are all problematic in rye-grasses. Italian rye-grass for example, a zero endophyte’ strain turns out to be far from ideal.
We helped a lady several years ago who had resown all her horse paddocks with Italian Rye Grass thinking she was doing the right thing, and all seven of the horses grazing it came down with serious staggers as soon as spring hit. The ‘staggers’ was due to the mineral imbalances not myco-toxins (remember there are two causes of ‘staggers’). http://www.calmhealthyhorses.com/neuro/staggers.html
There is a major reason why clover causes so many problems in horses.
Ruminants, (as in cows and sheep) possess an enzyme in the rumen which can incorporate nitrogen into protein. Protein consists of chains of amino acids with a nitrogen molecule on each end.
Horses, have neither a rumen nor the enzyme and it is ‘physiologically expensive’ for the horse to excrete the excess nitrogen by other means, it has to be converted in the liver to ammonia (which takes a lot of energy) and excreted in the urine as urea (Hence when horses are on high clover or other legumes like Lucerne, diets their urine often leaves brown patches where it has burnt the ground – like dog urine).
When contemplating resowing your horse pastures, only do so if absolutely necessary. If you have too much clover present, or other undesirable broadleaf plants then all you need to do is have your agricultural contractor go over with a broadleaf spray once a year, early spring is best. You will be amazed at the variety of grasses that will grow when you remove the competition of the clover.
If you do decide you need to resow and you go in to order your seed, stipulate in writing EXACTLY the species of grass seed you want and threaten to sue if they so much as add a teaspoon of rye or clover of any type.
Here is an example of what can happen if you don’t insist:
"Hello, I have watched your fb page for some time and taken careful note of your advice about types of grasses to feed horses for optimum results and calm and healthy horses.
Taking your advice from your web page I ordered new seed to be resown this coming spring. It has arrived in readiness - however I see the seed merchant could not provide Prairie Grass or Grazing Brome seed so substituted for 25kgs Nui Rygrass, 10 kg Emerald White clover, 4 Kg Relish ss Red clover.
I’m ready to tear my hair out about people who don’t follow instructions. I was assured that they were 'horse folk' too and they would substitute suitable seeds. I specifically gave them the list from your web page - Nothing in the list about rye grasses!!
I’m about in tears at the thought of what to do next. I would really appreciate your advice. The whole purpose of the resowing excersise was to make the whole place horse friendly grasses! Why don’t people listen?!?!"
And example of a paddock that was sown in (according to the seed merchant) ‘Horse Friendly Grass’