How To Introduce Your Horse to Spring Grass0
Spring. The days are getting longer and warmer. The snow is disappearing and the grass is starting to sprout. As appealing as that grass may be to your horse, it can potentially be dangerous this time of year. How can you prevent grazing grief?
Introduce grass slowly
You need to gradually introduce your horse to grass. Allow them to graze for a short period of time and gradually build this time up. Also be aware of when is the safest time to allow your horse to graze. NSC (nonstructural carbohydrates) levels in grasses tend to increase throughout the day, peaking at about 3 or 4 p.m., and decrease overnight to lows in the very early morning hours. NSCs can be divided into three groups: sugars, starches, and fructans, all of which can lead to metabolic issues in horses when ingested in high amounts.
Supplement with hay
Don’t stop feeding hay entirely once you turn your horse out to pasture in the spring. Your horse’s stomach will need time to adjust from eating strictly hay all winter.
Have a sacrifice area
A sacrifice area is an area with little or no grass. Your horse can spend most of his time here until he is fully adjusted to eating a diet of mostly grass. Having a sacrifice area will also help your pasture last longer as removing horses will allow your pasture to rest and regrow without being destroyed by hooves or overgrazing.
Use a grazing muzzle
If you are unable to have a sacrifice area, a grazing muzzle will help reduce the amount of grass your horse can graze on. Make sure the fit is correct and that it has a breakaway mechanism so your horse won’t get caught up.
Monitor spring grazing
Not only should you watch for signs of metabolic issues from eating too much lush pasture, your horse is also more susceptible to weight gain during this period due to the extra calories grass provides.
Here is a tip sheet on pasture management from Equine Guelph: https://www.equineguelph.ca/pdf/infosheets/Pasture_Management.pdf