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Grass is Coming! Avoid Stringhalt and Rye Grass Staggers

Updated: Feb 29

Did you know that many pasture seed mixes sold to improve pastures for horses and cattle include ryes and oxalates? You will also frequently see flatweed, dandelioin, false dandelion, and catsear in horse paddocks. If consumed in excess, horses can suffer from stringhalt or rye grass staggers. Horses are susceptible to various health issues, including neurological conditions. These conditions can impact their gait, coordination, and overall well-being.

Rye Grass Staggers:

Causes: Rye grass staggers, also known as ryegrass toxicosis, or 'grass tetany', is primarily caused by the consumption of endophyte-infected perennial ryegrass. The endophyte fungus produces alkaloids that can adversely affect the horse's nervous system. These alkaloids, such as ergovaline, are thought to trigger the characteristic symptoms of rye grass staggers. Symptoms: Horses affected by rye grass staggers often display symptoms such as tremors, muscle twitching, and difficulty coordinating movements. Their gait may become unsteady, and they might struggle to maintain balance. This condition can significantly impact the horse's quality of life and performance.

Potential Solutions:

  1. Mycosorb: Mycosorb, a product containing yeast cell walls rich in beta-glucans, has gained attention for its potential role in managing mycotoxin exposure. Mycosorb is believed to adsorb mycotoxins in the digestive tract, potentially reducing their harmful effects.

  2. Magnesium: Magnesium, an essential mineral, plays a crucial role in nerve transmission and muscle relaxation. Supplementation with magnesium is often considered for horses with neurological symptoms, as it might help regulate nerve impulses and muscle contractions. For horses with rye grass staggers, magnesium could potentially alleviate some of the muscle tremors and uncoordinated movements.


Causes: Stringhalt is another neurological disorder that affects a horse's gait. While the exact cause of stringhalt is not fully understood, it is mostly associated with dandelions and flatweed. Stringhalt involves nerve dysfunction in the hind limbs. Symptoms: Horses with stringhalt exhibit exaggerated, abrupt movements of the hind limbs when walking or trotting. This results in a peculiar "hitching" or "hopping" gait. In severe cases, affected horses might have difficulty moving or even stumble.

Potential Solutions:

  1. Mycosorb: Similar to its potential application in rye grass staggers, Mycosorb could also play a role in managing mycotoxin exposure that might contribute to neurological conditions like stringhalt.

  2. Magnesium: Magnesium supplementation may be beneficial for horses with stringhalt due to its potential to regulate nerve impulses and muscle contractions. By helping muscles relax and reducing involuntary contractions, magnesium might aid in alleviating the symptoms associated with stringhalt.

Here at Sound Advice we had a mild case of Stringhalt recently. We have a mare who is prone to laminitis and so she is kept in a paddock with very little pasture. We feed her around a quarter of a bale of grassy lucerne per day from a slow feeder. The last trailer of hay we bought had a lot of dandelion and flatweed, which we didn't know, as it is quite hard to identify when it is dried and mixed with other grasses. It was not from our usual supplier, which is we bought from another place because it was much cheaper. Lesson learnt.

She started exhibiting lameness and a high-stepping in her hinds. We were also feeding this hay to other horses, who didn't show these signs, but they are also turned out on pasture 24/7. Hay makes up a very small part of their forage.

We immediately stopped feeding her this hay, and fed her Mycosorb, Calm Mix and Relief Mix, and within a few days those symptoms had subsided.

The moral is that when bringing in outside hays you need to be vigilant. Ideally, you will find a hay farmer near to you who you can trust and buy direct. Milbrodale Hay can supply test results for their hays, guaranteeing consistent quality, so it is worth paying a little extra.

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