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Spring Grazing: Tips for Safely Transitioning Your Horse to Lush Pastures

As spring arrives and pastures burst with new growth, horse owners eagerly anticipate the opportunity to let their equine partners enjoy fresh grazing.

However, transitioning horses from winter diets to lush spring pastures requires careful management to ensure their health and well-being. Here are some essential tips for safely navigating the spring grazing season:

Gradual Introductions are Mandatory: Sudden access to rich, green pasture can pose risks to horses, including digestive upset and the potential for laminitis – a painful and potentially debilitating condition. To mitigate these risks, gradually introduce horses to pasture by allowing limited access for short periods each day, gradually increasing the time for several weeks.  The gradual transition allows horses’ digestive systems to gradually adjust to the new forage.

Monitor Grazing Time:  Keep a close eye on the amount of time your horse spends grazing, especially during the initial stages of lush pasture turnout. Limit grazing time to no more than a few hours each day initially, gradually increasing as your horse becomes accustomed to the lush forage. The BEST time for early spring grazing is morning.  The plant’s sugar content is lowest in the morning but continues to rise throughout the day, peaking in the evening.  Use a grazing muzzle if necessary to further restrict intake, particularly for horses prone to obesity (“easy keepers”) or those with metabolic issues.

Monitor Your Horse’s Body Condition: Regularly assess your horse’s body condition throughout the spring to ensure they are maintaining a healthy weight. Monitor for signs of weight gain or loss, and adjust turnout and feed accordingly. If your horse is gaining weight excessively, consider implementing additional exercise or further restricting grazing time.

Consider Nutritional Supplements:  While spring pasture can be rich in nutrients, it may still lack certain essential vitamins and minerals. If you aren’t feeding a complete and balanced horse feed, you may want to consider supplementing your horse’s diet with a quality vitamin and mineral supplement.  This will ensure that they are receiving all the nutrients they need for optimal health and performance. Dr. Suzanne can best advise you on the supplements your horse needs.

Rotate Pastures: To prevent overgrazing and maintain pasture health, practice rotational grazing by dividing your pasture into smaller paddocks and rotating horses between them periodically. This not only helps to prevent pasture damage but also allows forage to regrow and ensures horses have access to fresh, nutritious grass.

Monitor for Signs of Digestive Upset: Keep an eye out for signs of digestive upset such as diarrhea, colic, or changes in manure consistency.  If you notice any concerning symptoms, call Dr. Suzanne immediately to rule out any underlying health issues.  You’ll also need to adjust your pasture management practices as needed.

Maintain Regular Veterinary Care: At a minimum, you should schedule health and wellness visits with Dr. Suzanne twice per year to assess their overall health and address any concerns you may have.  Dr. Suzanne can provide guidance on pasture management, diet, and preventative care measures to keep your horses healthy and thriving throughout the grazing season and beyond!

Ensure a safe and enjoyable spring grazing experience for your horse by following these tips and practicing proactive pasture management.  You’ll allow your horse to reap the benefits of fresh forage while minimizing the risks associated with the transition to lush pastures.  Here’s to a happy and healthy spring season for you and your equine partners!

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