So why are we always commenting upon the weather? Why would that affect your horse?
Well it’s true… The weather is an influencing factor when it comes to grazing and not understanding the rules can put your horse at risk of colic, acidosis of the hind gut, laminitis and many more serious conditions…
As lush, green grass begins to grow, it could be the beginning of havoc for your horse’s delicate digestive tract triggered by rich sugar levels.
Vets and nutritionists have known for some time that plants store energy in their seeds in the form of starch that can cause acidosis if the horse is introduced to grain too quickly or eats too much grain. Only recently have researchers discovered that grasses not only store energy in their seed heads as starch, they also store energy as sugar.
During spring, the grass grows rapidly, it stores more sugar than it needs for growth to enable the leaf to have the energy required to grow taller. Horses then consume the sugar as they graze. Later in the year, when the daylight and nighttime temperatures are more consistent and grass growth rates decrease, the plant uses up most of the sugar produced during the day each night.
So during periods where the weather is wet and warm these are ideal growing conditions for grass and when the shoots pop up they are rich in fructose and when these sugars are passed in high quantities through the horse’s digestive tract, they can cause an imbalance of the micro flora in the hind gut, resulting in associated acidosis. This form of acidosis of the hind gut is responsible for colic, laminitis, scouring and other unsavoury conditions.
It’s better to be prepared before you get caught out.
Here are some tips for avoiding grass
● Keep horses off lush, fast-growing fields until the grass has slowed in growth and produces seed heads.
● Graze horses on fields containing a high percentage of legumes. Legumes, such as alfalfa or clover, store energy as starch, not sugar.
● Avoid grazing horses on fieldsthat have been exposed to bright sunny days followed by low temperatures, such as a few days of warm sunny weather followed by a late spring frost.
● Avoid grazing horses on fields that have been grazed very short during the winter and are growing rapidly.
● Keep overweight horses stabled or in small bare paddocks until the grass rate of growth has slowed, then introduce them to grazing slowly.
● Turn horses out on grazing for a few hours in the early morning when sugar levels are low, not at night when levels are at their highest.
● Allow horses to fill up on hay before turning them out on grazing.
● Feed Coligone as a preventative measure or when your horse has over indulged.