How to Safely Transition Your Horse to Spring Pasture
Cameron Jensen - Monday, August 14, 2017
As Winter becomes Spring, the transition to Spring pasture must be managed with care. A gradual approach not only protects the health of your horses, but also promotes the health of your pastures — saving you energy, time and money.
Your horse’s digestive system is designed to process fibre, including hay and pasture. However, there are vast differences between these two fibrous feed sources, including moisture content. While hay is comprised of approximately 15% moisture, pasture usually holds 85% moisture.
Being a hindgut fermenting herbivore, rapid changes from hay to pasture can wreak havoc on microbial populations in the digestive system — often leading to toxin absorption, digestive upset and even colic. Instead, gradual dietary changes give microbial populations time to adjust.
A slow introduction to Spring pasture takes into account your pasture’s growth phase. At 7-10cm, grazing can radically diminish photosynthesis, leaving plants depleted and with only shallow root structures; in turn, allowing harmful plant species, such as weeds, to take hold.
Pastures should only be grazed when above 15-20cm in height. When pastures reduce to 7-10cm, grazing must cease to prevent over-grazing. While you wait for pasture to grow, your horse can be moved to another pasture or given continuous free-choice hay on a dry lot.
Spring grazing strategy
To protect the health of your horses and your pastures, there are some simple steps you can follow this Spring.
- When the grass reaches 15-20cm in height, allow your horse to graze for 15 minutes per day, preferably in the morning when non-structural carbohydrate (NSC) content is lowest.
- As your horse is introduced to Spring pasture, continue to feed them their normal hay diet. A forage-first diet, supported by a well-balanced concentrate, such as Running Cool, is imperative for every horse, regardless of age, breed, use and workload.
- Gradually increase grazing time by 15 minutes each day, until your horse is grazing for 4-5 hours consecutively. By then, your horse can graze unrestricted.
Spring grass and health problems
However, caution must be taken for any horse pre-disposed or currently suffering from equine metabolic syndrome, laminitis or cushing’s disease. For these horses, pasture intake may need to remain minimal or be avoided altogether.
If you suspect your horse is at risk of any of these conditions, consult your veterinarian for their feeding recommendations.
At Running Cool, we genuinely care about your horse’s health and wellbeing. Our superior horse feed range supports your horse at every stage of life with well-balanced vitamins, minerals and protein for pleasure and performance. Click here to learn more.