Spring is a time for growth, and your horse’s fields are no exception. If the conditions are right, then your pasture could be knee high in lush grass. While you might think that’s a good thing, there are some dangers worth noting. Horses that are turned out on spring grass need some extra management. Follow these tips to keep your horse safe!
What’s the big deal?
New grass is high in nutrients called fructans. Your horse won’t be accustomed to eating them after a long winter on hay. His gut just isn’t up to the task. Fructans are a type of sugar. They’re most high in the cool seasons of spring and fall. Horses love to eat this “sugary” grass. So, what’s the issue? Horses can upset their digestive system and cause colic or laminitis by digesting too much too quick.
These tips will keep your horse safe:
1. Gradually increase turnout: Start with an hour a day and increase this time by 15-30 minutes each day after. Those that are turned out 24/7 should be brought in for some of the day.
2. Turn out in the morning or late evening: Fructans are the highest in the afternoon sun.
3. Mow your pastures: Keep grass between 4 and 8 inches tall.
4. Rotate: Overgrazed pastures are higher in fructans, so make sure to give fields a break with rotational grazing.
5. Offer hay: Even if the grass in growing strongly, hay contains fiber that your horse may crave.
6. Use a grazing muzzle: They can act as a gut buffer and restrict grass intake.
7. Check your horse frequently: Look for signs of painful walking or warm hooves.
Treat each horse as an individual. Some may be more accustomed to consuming high levels of fructans, while others will have a lot of trouble. Careful monitoring and proper planning will go a long way!