After a long, snowy winter in many parts of the country, people and horses alike are eager to get out and enjoy spring warmth and sunshine. Pastures are greening up, and it’s time for horse owners to open the barn and let their horses dine al fresco.
“It’s tempting to just let horses out and allow them to graze for as long as they want,” said Karen Davison, PhD, an equine nutritionist for Purina Animal Nutrition. “But it’s important to introduce horses to pasture grass in a way that doesn’t invite issues like gastrointestinal upset, laminitis or weight gain in already-overweight horses.”
Davison shared these five tips to help ensure a successful and healthy spring turnout.
- Take it slowly. Introduce your horse to spring pasture gradually to avoid any abrupt dietary change, which can cause serious problems such as colic, founder, or laminitis. Davison recommends starting horses on spring pasture anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour once or twice a day then increasing that time by five to 10 minutes each day until your horse is in the pasture for six hours. Once they are out successfully for six hours, they can stay out all day.
- Prevent gorging. Try feeding your horse hay or a full meal before letting him out into the pasture to avoid turning them out on an empty stomach. Then, when he starts grazing, he’ll tend to take things a bit slower. Another method is to introduce a grazing muzzle, which allows the horse to enjoy the pasture but prevents him from taking large mouthfuls of grass.
- Meet your horse’s nutrient requirements. Early-spring pasture grass is very