For most horsemen, spring is a welcome season. Among other reasons, spring brings the green up of pastures. While grass seems the most natural of feedstuffs for horses and ponies, it can stir up health concerns in susceptible individuals.
Let us review some of the common issues that can spring up along with green grass this season:
• Colic. When it comes to spring grass, colic risk rises, primarily due to changes that occur in the gastrointestinal environment consequent to overconsumption.
• Laminitis. Several modes of action may cause laminitis depending on the individual horse and its susceptibility. Visit equinews.com for more resources on feeding laminitis-prone horses.
• Loose manure. A change in manure is common when horses consume lush spring grass, most likely because of the elevated water content of grasses, which can reach 85%. Always consult with a veterinarian when drastic changes occur in a horse’s manure, especially if it is watery and lasts more than a day or two.
• Wood-chewing. Horses require fiber in their diets. Because springtime grass contains little fiber, some horses will look elsewhere to satisfy this need. Horses often chew fence boards or rip bark from trees as a way to consume more fiber. Horses may colic from eating indigestible wood, possibly as a result of impaction.
Safe springtime turnout requires planning. According to Kathleen Crandell, a Ph.D. with Kentucky Equine Research, management strategies include:
• Gradually acclimating horses unaccustomed to spring pasture by allowing more and more turnout per day and feeding hay the remainder of the day. Start with 20-30 minutes of exposure on the first day of grazing and then increase by 30 minutes every one to two days. This will not be necessary for horses that have access to the pasture throughout the entire transition from winter to spring.
• Using a grazing muzzle to slow the consumption of the fresh grass.
• Continuing to offer hay to horses on pasture to give them more fiber. A flake or two is usually enough to discourage wood-chewing.
• Feeding a research-proven hindgut buffer like EquiShure® two to three times a day throughout springtime. EquiShure keeps the pH of the hindgut steady, decreasing the likelihood of sweeping shifts in the microbial population.
The KER Targeted Nutrition line of Digestive Health supplements offers several difference supplements to support a horse’s entire digestive tract. Visit ker.com/digestive-health to explore the line of research-proven supplements. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to speak with a Kentucky Equine Research nutritionist for recommendations.