With spring pastures being rich in sugar, these tips can help you safely reintroduce your horse to grazing.
Before you know it, green will be cropping up and spring pastures will begin to grow. But as appealing as the idea of springtime grass may be, it can actually pose health risks to your horse.
Short spring grass has a high sugar content, and if your horse hasn't had access to grass all winter, this sweet grass can come as a shock to his system. Laminitis and colic are serious risks when you put your horse out on spring pastures too quickly.
So how do you handle reintroducing your horse to grazing on spring pastures? These tips can help.
1. Use a sacrifice area.
Introducing your horse to spring grass too soon can not only result in digestive upset, but it's also possible for your horse to graze down the pasture too much, destroying it for the rest of the season.
It's best to use a sacrifice area or dry lot with little to no grass. Your horse will spend most of his time on the dry lot, and once the spring pasture is ready, you can begin turning him out on grass for a few minutes a day.
2. Gradually introduce your horse to grass.
Slow and steady is the idea, here. Start your horse off on just a bit of grazing time per day - 20 minutes is a pretty good place to start. Continue with this 20-minute grazing time for a week, then start increasing your horse's time grazing by five minutes a day.
As the grass matures and your horse's system adjusts to it, you can increase his grazing time.
3. Supplement pasture with hay.
As you start to turn your horse out on grass, offer hay alongside. Your horse's system is already accustomed to hay, and hay can help to buffer your horse's stomach before he starts in on the grass.
Consider feeding your horse hay before turnout to help prepare his digestive system.
4. Use a grazing muzzle.
Grazing muzzles can be a good way to restrict your horse's grass intake. However, it's important to make sure that the muzzle properly fits your horse and is equipped with safety breakaway tabs or ties in case your horse gets the muzzle caught up on something.
5. Monitor your horse.
As your horse spends more time on pasture this year, be sure to monitor him. It's easy for horses to gain weight on spring pasture because of the extra calories that they can take in.
It may be necessary to restrict your horse's grazing time, use a muzzle, or adjust his feed intake to reflect the grass that he eats.
There's nothing prettier than seeing a horse grazing on lush pasture. Most horses can enjoy grass safely as long as you carefully reintroduce them to the pastures each spring.
How do you prepare your horse for springtime pastures? Tell us in the comments below!
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