Tragedy of St Albans horse that died after eating grass cuttings

Hope Gimson and Dolly

Hope Gimson and Dolly - Credit: Archant

A devastated mother and daughter have issued a warning about the dangers to horses of grass mowings being left close to horses after their beloved five-year-old cob had to be put to sleep.

Hope Gimson and Dolly

Hope Gimson and Dolly - Credit: Archant

Donna Gimson and her 15-year-old daughter Hope stabled Dolly, whom they had owned since she was two, at Westwick Row Farm on the A4147 St Albans to Hemel Hempstead Road.

But at the weekend she had to be put down after suffering from a severe bout of colic as a result of eating grass clippings left outside the back gate of a house which the owner did not realise were within the cob’s reach.

Hope said: “Like most horses, Dolly was very greedy. They are always on the lookout for anything they can eat, both inside and outside their field and it is amazing the distance they can stretch.”

Donna added: “We knew it was the grass cuttings because Dolly’s long white mane had been caught on the fence as she stretched between the wire to reach them and that is exactly what the vets found in her stomach.”

Now Donna and Hope are warning people not to feed grass to horses, either deliberately or inadvertently, or give them treats without the permission of the owner.

Just over a fortnight ago, Dolly was found in her field suffering from colic - a condition which can cause severe stomach pain as it had in the 15-hand cob’s case.

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It appeared that the grass mowings had impacted into a solid mass in her stomach causing her colon to twist.

Emergency surgery had to be carried out at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in Potters Bar in the early hours of the morning. Hope said: “From then on we were on a roller-coaster. The night before the operation, mum and I were at the RVC saying goodbye just in case Dolly didn’t make it.

“But at 3am the vet phoned mum to say Dolly had come through the surgery but she wasn’t out of the woods yet.”

Dolly remained at the RVC for the next 10 days and she was fine at first but then developed colic again.

Donna explained: “Colic is the condition that every horse owner dreads. We work so hard to try to make sure our horses are fed the correct diet, at the correct time. All of the horses on our yard are given feed specific to their individual needs and no two horses are the same.

“But members of the public can cause all sorts of problems by feeding other people’s horses in their fields, because they are unaware of the potential dangers to the horses.”

A local resident had been asked not to tip grass cuttings in the field and other horse owners from Dolly’s yard had posted letters through residents’ doors, explaining the dangers of feeding cut grass to horses and asking them not to do it.

The letter also warned that any treats - even apples and carrots - fed to horses without the owner’s permission had the potential to cause illness because some horses had food allergies just like humans.

Signs asking passers-by not to feed the horses had been put around the fencing but many had been ripped off.

Dolly came back to the yard last Thursday, August 4, and seemed to be recovering but later she became ill with colic again and they had to take the agonising decision to have her put to sleep.

Donna said: “The vet came out, but nothing she did helped. After talking it over with a couple of friends who knew a lot about cases like Dolly, they helped us understand that Dolly had long-term damage to her digestive system and that she was never going to properly recover.

“Dolly was clearly suffering and, while it was the most heart-breaking decision Hope has ever had to make, I am so proud of her that she put Dolly’s needs before her own.”