Guest Author - Kim Wende
Horses love spring grass because of its rich taste. After the winter the grass awakens from its dormant state. The grass is very high in protein and sugar and can cause a lot of problems for your horse. The grass is easy to digest and will easily ferment in the large bowel.
If your horse has been on hay all winter and is unaccustomed to being turned out on grass you will want to slowly introduce them to eating the spring grass in order to avoid digestive upset.
During the winter most people feed their horses more food to help keep them warm which usually results in a higher body weight. When going into spring the horse is heavier because they've had less exercise during the winter. With the combination of a heavier horse and spring grass this can lead to problems such as digestive upset, obesity or laminitis.
Digestive Upset – Horses that are not used to being out on pasture need to be introduced to the spring grass slowly as the sudden change can easily upset the bacteria in the horses gut which could lead too colic.
Obesity – Horses are athletes and are not designed to be obese as it puts a strain on their joints, feet and heart. A horse that is obese will not perform at its best and will become fatigued easily and it increases their risk of overheating.
Laminitis – This is the most serious of problems. Horses that are sensitive are at a greater risk. If your horse or pony has any of these indicators keep a close eye on them. Cresty necks, cellulite-like areas at the base of the tail or elsewhere, horses with Cushing's disease and those that have a history of foundering.
One of the signs that your horse is getting too much green grass is the softening of the manure. A horse that is developing serious digestive issues will become bloated and may develop diarrhea. So be alert to manure changes.
Ways to help your horse adjust to the spring grass is to use a good probiotic as it will encourage the growth of the good bacteria and aids in the digestive process.
Build up the time spent on the spring grass slowly by letting them graze between thirty minutes to an hour the first day and then add fifteen minutes each day thereafter. If for some reason you can't let them out for a couple of days start them back at the same amount of time you left off with. The key is to always make changes slowly to your horses diet.