Spring has sprung. At least for the moment. Lush green grass is every horse's favorite. However there are some rules to consider when turning out Dobbin. First rule of thumb: horses don't like change. Or I should say their digestive track doesn't like change. Their intestines are a delicate balance of bacteria (gut flora) that aid in digestion. When the diet changes suddenly you upset this balance and illness, diarrhea and laminitis can result. Next rule: If your horse has Cushings, metabolic syndrome, a history of laminitis or is overweight, grazing should be severely curtailed.
So, we've determined Dobbin can have grass and we have a beautiful pasture to put him in. Start very slowly. 10 minutes to start increasing 5 minutes every 5 days. This is not a hard and fast rule, just a suggestion. If at any point he gets diarrhea keep him off the grass until cleared. The grass we have in the winter has much more moisture in it and is therefore somewhat safer to graze for longer times. As the temperature and the day length increases so does the sugar content. Also the sugar content is highest closest to the ground. I've had a pony founder on “putting green”- length grass. Keep tabs on your horse's weight. Don't trust you're eye—use a weight tape. If he's gaining you may need to cut back on hay grain and/or grass. Grazing muzzles are an option for our over-zealous eaters. Even if your horse has had access to pasture all winter please be careful about free access in the spring.
Watching and listening to horses graze and chew is one of the best parts of spring. Be smart and enjoy.
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