Grazing horses properly - and why it's so important
Who is not happy when spring knocks? Finally, the days are longer again and the first warm rays of sunshine feel really good.
You've probably noticed that your horse feels the same way and has real "spring fever". Especially the lush green pastures make horses' hearts beat faster. The pasture time is the most beautiful time of the year for your favorite. But in order to enjoy it to the fullest, it is important to pay attention to a few things in advance. Otherwise, serious side effects can occur, because a quick change of feed is difficult for your favorite and not provided for by nature.
Between mid-April and early May, the grazing season begins for most stable operators. However, the change from dry and high crude fiber but low protein stable feed (hay/straw/haylage) to the low crude fiber and high protein spring pasture feed with high water content is a big challenge for your horse's digestion. Therefore, patient grazing is very important. Failure to do so can result in diarrhea, colic and even laminitis. The horse's intestines have adapted to a diet of roughage over the winter. The intestinal flora contains the necessary bacteria to optimally digest the winter feed. If your horse suddenly has the opportunity to eat large amounts of fresh greens, your horse's digestion will be out of balance because it cannot process some of the food. For this, it needs other bacteria, which can only be formed through dosed grazing.
Horses that are grazed all year round usually do this on their own, but you should also keep an eye on them. If you pay attention to a few things, your horse will start the grazing season without any problems.
Our 6 tips & tricks for grazing your horse:
Before you take your horse out to pasture, it is important to always feed enough hay first. A hungry horse craves the juicy grass much more and tries to take in as much food as quickly as possible. On a nice May pasture, this can quickly be up to 6 kg per hour.
Approach the transition from stable to pasture management gradually and cautiously
Two to four weeks have proven to be good. In the first week, 15 minutes a day is enough. In the second week, you can extend it to 30 minutes or even an hour. If your horse tolerates the grass well, you can gradually increase the grazing time until it finally stays outside all day.
Watch your horse
If you see your horse getting diarrhea, you should reduce the grazing time and feed hay instead until digestion normalizes.
The fresh spring grass has a very high protein as well as carbohydrate content. If you switch your horse to green feed too quickly, metabolic problems can occur. In particular, the liver and kidneys will be severely stressed. An increased fructose intake leads to an overacidification of the intestinal environment and useful bacteria die off. As a result, toxins are released, enter the bloodstream and form small blood clots. The risk of laminitis is then very high. To limit carbohydrates, many horse owners reduce concentrate feed during the grazing season. If you notice tarnished legs or a hardened mane crest, these are real warning signs of too much protein.
On the other hand, frequent rolling as well as the absence of the horse's droppings can be an indication of incipient colic. As you can see, it is important that you observe your horse well.
Restrict grazing times
From May to July is the main growth period of the pasture. During this time it is very important to see exactly how many hours of grazing are good for your horse and whether this time should be limited.
Mindfulness for pre-stressed horses
There are many horses that cannot easily go out to pasture all summer. There are different reasons and clinical pictures for this.
Especially if the nights were very cold or the days are very sunny, the fructan concentration in the grass is very high. Then it is recommended to leave the pre-stressed horses on a paddock.
Exuberance is rarely good
Even if our last tip has nothing to do with the feed, it is still helpful.
We all know the pictures of bucking horses that are finally allowed to go out to pasture again. They gallop back and forth exuberantly and hit many a wild hook. The risk of injury should not be underestimated during such a cold start. That's why we advise you to exercise your horse beforehand to get rid of excess energy. A nice ride or a training in the arena can work wonders.
You will certainly be happy when your horse can finally go out to pasture again. With a little patience and care, it will certainly be a great season!