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Spring Grazing: Tips For Transitioning Your Horse Safely and Successfully to Grass

Spring Grass Grazing for horse - Safely transitioning

Spring is a wonderful time of year for horse owners as pastures begin to bloom and grass starts to grow again. The image of a horse peacefully grazing on lush pasture is a picture of perfection to many. However, for the health of your horse it is important to transition them back onto that lush spring grass pasture slowly in order to avoid any potential health problems.

Spring grass pasture differs from the rest of the year in that it is typically high in non-structural carbohydrates “NSC” (i.e sugar) and low in fiber. Although horses find it delicious, it can prove to be dangerous, as too much sugar in their diet can lead to issues such as laminitis and founder. In addition, the rapid change in diet can also lead to digestive upset and colic.

When transitioning your horse back onto spring grass pasture, it is important to do so gradually to allow their digestive system, and the microbes within, to adjust as well as to lower the risk of any metabolic issues. Here are some tips to help transition your horse back onto spring grass pasture successfully:

  1. Gradual Transition: It is recommended to hold off on allowing horses to graze on spring grass until it has grown at least 6 inches as to give the grass itself enough time to recover from the stress of winter as well as  to grow new leaf tissues. Once the pasture is ready, it is important to slowly introduce your horse to it in increments of 15-30 minutes per day until the horse is grazing 4 hours per day. From that point, allow 4 hour turn out for at least 2 weeks before adjusting to your desired turnout time, if longer. This slow and steady approach will allow their digestive system to adjust to the higher sugar content and prevent any sudden spikes in their blood sugar levels. 

  2. Monitor Your Horse's Behavior: Keep an eye on your horse's behavior and health during the transition process. If you notice any signs of discomfort, such as bloating, colic, or laminitis, it is important to reduce their access to the pasture and consult with your veterinarian.

  3. Limit Grazing Time: Consider using a grazing muzzle or limiting your horse's time on the pasture to prevent them from overeating. A grazing muzzle may also prove to be beneficial for horse owners who may not have time to transition slowly. A grazing muzzle allows the horse to eat and drink but reduces food intake anywhere from 30-80%. After taking the muzzle off at the end of the day, it is important to ensure your horse still has access to fresh forage.

  4. Provide Hay: To help slow down your horse's intake of spring grass, provide them with hay before allowing them access to the pasture. This will help prevent them from gorging on the fresh grass and potentially causing digestive upset.

  5. Monitor Weight: Keep an eye on your horse's weight during the transition process. Some horses may gain weight quickly when introduced to spring grass, so it is important to adjust their diet, exercise routine and pasture time accordingly.

In conclusion, while spring grass pasture is a welcome sight for horse owners, it is important to transition your horse back onto pasture slowly to avoid any potential health problems. By gradually introducing them to the new diet and monitoring them closely, you can help ensure a smooth transition and keep your horse healthy and happy during the spring grazing season. 

Happy grazing! 

Spring Grass Grazing For Horse

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