Tips for Managing Horses on Spring Pastures

Here are some tips to remember to help your horse stay happy and healthy when consuming this spring’s lush pasture.
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The arrival of spring brings lush green grass to your pastures. While your horse might be excited to graze, eating too much fresh pasture can lead to serious problems. If you’re stressing about letting your horse graze on spring grass, fear not. Here are some tips to keep in mind to help your horse stay happy and healthy this spring.

“There are many ways to help prepare your horse for spring pasture turnout,” said Lydia Gray, DVM, MA, staff veterinarian and medical director for SmartPak. “Three of the biggest things you can do to help prepare your horse include managing their grass intake, increasing other sources of forage in their diet, and supplementing for their unique needs.”

Managing Grass Intake

While lush grass is beautiful to look at, it can cause numerous health challenges for horses. The first step in helping to prevent potential health problems is to keep your horse from grazing too much too quickly. While it’s important to introduce horses to grass slowly—just 10-15 minutes a day at first—many horse owners have also found success throughout the season using a grazing muzzle. A great tool when it comes to weight management for the easy keeper, a grazing muzzle provides a comfortable way to limit your horse’s intake of grass without obstructing his ability to drink, breathe, or socialize. While wearing a muzzle, your horse can still have fun in the field and you don’t have to worry about him gorging on grass.

Increasing Other Forage

“Another method to reduce spring grass consumption is to ‘fill your horse’s tank’ with hay before pasture turnout,” said Gray. “Better yet, keep his digestive tract full at all times with (free choice) long-stem forage.” Tools such as a small-hole haynet allow restricted access to hay so your horse will slow down and enjoy his food for a longer period of time. A small-hole haynet is also a great option for horses who need their amount of daily hay limited because of problems such as obesity or who need a small, constant supply of roughage because of problems such as gastric lesions or digestive upset.

Providing Supplement Support

Finally, supplemental support could prove beneficial for some horses grazing spring pasture. Too much spring grass can bring concerns for your horse’s laminar health. The laminae are the tiny, interlocking “fingers” that attach the coffin bone to the rest of the hoof. If the laminae become inflamed, they may separate and cause serious health concerns. If you’re concerned about your horse’s laminar health, several companies produce products marketed to support healthy laminae. Or, if your horse is an easy keeper, a supplement designed to support healthy metabolic function, might help your horse stay healthy as the grass fills in. It’s recommended to discuss any supplement or feeding changes with your veterinarian or an equine nutritionist prior to implementing the adjustments to ensure your horse’s diet remains balanced.

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