March 20th is the Official First Day of Spring 2020
Spring grass is mother natures way of feeding all grazing animals with essential nutrients, a bonus for surviving the winter.
The growth of rich spring grass coincides with the natural foaling season, and provides grazing animals including the pregnant mare with high levels of essential proteins and calories that support the mothers milk production.
The average horse can consume almost 5% of its own bodyweight in Spring grass per day.
A 600kg horse can eat around 30kg of grass in spring each day. Which provides approximately three times the daily energy requirements for the average horse in light work.
Fructan levels are higher in spring grass and your horse or pony enjoys eating those sweet tender little shoots that are higher in fructans (non-structural carbohydrates).
But this excess sugar, (that’s what fructans are), can give rise to equine health issues such as colic, laminitis, digestive tract & metabolic upsets. It can also, obviously, cause fast weight gain.
- Fructan is produced in higher quantities on sunny Spring days.
- Young tender Spring grass has lower levels of tough fibre
- Sweet tender Spring grass is more palatable to the horse than that dry old hay it’s lived on all Winter.
Managing Laminitis & Colic Prone Equines
Rich Spring grass can sometimes overwhelm the equine digestive system and upset the gut microflora. Feeding a good quality probiotic and prebiotic on a daily basis will help to keep the digestive system working correctly.
Laminitis … Complete prevention of spring grazing is a viable option for horses and ponies that are particularly prone to laminitis. In these cases Spring grazing should be severely limited.
Colic … Almost all horses and ponies tend to gorge on fresh spring grass, and were the hind gut is unable to fully digest this sudden quantity of grass a colic may occur.
Both colic prone and laminitic horses and ponies may benefit from having some probiotic and prebiotic to balance the gut microflora before turning out on sweet spring grass.
Think Ahead and Be Prepared .. Your Equine Friends Health Depends On It
Pasture & Paddock Management
Every British season comes with benefits and drawbacks for the horse owner and particularly for the DIY Livery. Spring can be especially taxing.
- Warm and too much rain – the worm burden is high & mud is all you see
- Drought, the sugars are stored in the grass at the base of the blade waiting for rain. If the horse eats the short sweet nubs, it’s getting all that stored sugar.
- When it rains, the grass grows, the stored sugar returns up the blade and now you have sweet full blades of grass.
- Wet and Warm and the weeds grow, which are even higher in sugar.
Good pasture and paddock management is an essential part of horse care, no matter what the season.
Muck picking and pulling weeds are the most obvious of tasks. Fence & gateway maintenance a little more involved. Paddock rotation and resting another issue best left to the Yard Manager.
- Think Spring Grass. Think, what does my horse need.
- Consider Strip Grazing Your Paddock. What would you need?
- Consider a Grazing Muzzle. How will it affect your horse or pony?
- Consider nightime turnout. Can you manage the in’s and out’s?
- Consider the Weather. What precautions should you take?
- Think Horse Health. Will lush Spring Grass affect your horse or pony?
- Consider Gut Microflora. Would your horse or pony benefit from a little boost?
- Think Laminitis. Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst.
- Consider Colic. How to avoid, prevent and possibly treat it.
- Think Good Paddock Maintenance. Think Clean, Think Clear and Think Parasite Control.