The long, harsh winter is gradually changing into spring! Here are a few things to consider before turning your horses out on lush growing pastures.

Changes in Pasture Growth

During the winter months and times of inclement weather, domestic horses are often confined in areas where they cannot access natural forage on a day to day basis. Many owners that have pastures restrict the horse's access to the pasture in winter to protect the pasture from the damage a horse can inflict. Horses are destructive on wet pastures often ripping the forage by the roots with their teeth, or causing extensive damage to the sod by churning and forming rivets with their hoofs.

But along with the warmer temperatures comes changes to the pasture's condition, when grass turns to a greener appearance and regains nutritional value for the grazing horse. Early in spring, grasses are striving to grow and must have two to three weeks to develop a length of stem that will assist growth in the following growing season. Horses should not graze on these early plants until the grass is at least four to six inches in height.

Benefits of Pastures

Problems can occur with horses' acclimation to forage when spring arrives and they're introduced to a diet of green grasses:

  • Horses are grazing/browsing animals and seek to obtain the nutrients and fiber they need need by eating natural pasture forage.

  • A healthy, well-maintained pasture might provide all the necessary forage a horse needs in its diet.

  • The challenge for owners is controlling the amount of green grass consumption when returning