Questions about Rye Grass Types

Many people are being fooled into believing that 'low endophyte' rye grass is OK for horses. It is not...

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I don’t have much Rye Grass, Why am I Still having Problems?

In the early days, we too thought that all we had to do was eliminated the all the rye grass and clover and replace with ‘horse-friendly’ grasses and all our problems would be over. However, it soon transpired that there is a lot more to it.


NB: You will never eliminate ALL the rye-grass as there are millions of seeds in the ground. However if it is growing as part of a mixture of grasses it won’t cause problems, it is more problematic when it is grown as a ‘mono-culture’ or with clover and that is all they have to eat.

Sowing more horse-friendly (usually natives or grasses NOT ‘improved’ or selected for high production) grass species is absolutely a step in the right direction but how you manage these grasses is crucial to keeping your horses calm and healthy on it.

Any grass that is over grazed or in growth mode (Short and green) is minerally unbalanced because the only concern of the grass is to recover so it can produce seed and reproduce.

Rye grass and other high production grasses have been selected for their rapid growth, high nutrient density including sugars and sometimes endophyte properties – this makes them more unsuitable for horses than other species.

 

Is Low Endophyte Rye Grass OK for Horses?

You will often be told about rye-grass: Oh it is OK for horses, it is ‘low endophyte’ or ‘endophyte free’. If endophyte fungi were the only problem with rye-grass then that may be true but endophytes are just about the least of the problems with rye-grass.

Mineral imbalances top the list, followed by NSC content, the fact it stores sugars as indigestible fructans, photodynamic pigments which contribute to photosensitization of the nose and white areas of skin and whether it harbours endophytes which potentially produce harmful myco-toxins ( if it is an endophyte strain.)

The endophytes which produce harmful mycotoxins are only one of the undesirable characteristics of rye-grass. Removing the endophytes does nothing to address the high sugar content, the fact that sugar is stored as indigestible fructans, the fact it is high in photodynamic pigments which cause mud-fever & sunburn, and most significantly how it can get so high in potassium and nitrates which I now believe cause most of the problems in our horses.

Hence other names for rye-grass are “Founder Fodder’ or ‘Disaster Pasture’!

A healthy horse can handle some rye grass as part of the pasture mix with the help of suitable nutrition as recommended on the website. It is not very often though, that clover does not cause problems of some description or other, especially if the horses are not well nourished.