South West equine welfare charity the Mare and Foal Sanctuary is calling on people to stop leaving grass cutting treats for moorland ponies, as it puts their health at significant risk.

The charity has already seen piles of freshly mown grass cuttings dumped on moorland, which people consider a helpful spring treat for the ponies.

However, The Mare and Foal Sanctuary today warned that ponies eating the cuttings could become very sick and even suffer a slow and painful death. It believes people are unaware that their goodwill gesture causes more harm than good.

The grass cuttings begin fermenting almost as soon as they are cut and the ponies will gorge on them as they are so palatable, causing a build-up of gas in the pony’s stomach.

As ponies have a one-way stomach valve, they are unable to vomit or even burp to relieve the pressure. The gases given off by the fermenting cuttings can expand to the point where they rupture the stomach, causing an agonising death. The clippings can also cause serious colic due to complications further down the intestinal tract.

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Piles of freshly mown grass cuttings are being dumped on moorland

Ponies are also very good at avoiding poisonous plants, but cannot detect them - or any garden chemicals - mixed in with the more palatable grass in discarded cuttings. Popular garden shrubs like Rhododendrons and privet hedging are also highly toxic to equines.

The charity’s Welfare Officer, Becky Treeby, says: “It seems like a good way to give the ponies a treat, but people could be unintentionally causing considerable harm.

“Our moorland ponies have adapted to survive on very little and with the arrival of spring they’ll soon have more than enough grazing to live on.”

If you are concerned about the welfare of a horse or pony on the region’s moors, contact the charity.

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