Baillie Haylage have partnered up with the Equine Nutrition experts at Bishop Burton College to provide horse owners with quality feeding advice. Georgina Smith BSc (Hons) MRes explains why we need to consider the effects of the changing quality of grassland as we head towards spring and alter how best to manage this transition.
The Effects Spring Grass Can Have On Horses
As the seasons tranisiton into spring we can expect our pastures to begin growing once more; but with this change in appearance of grassland, comes a change in the nutrient composition. Many of us are familiar with the effects that spring grass can have on horses such as the increase in excitability when handling or riding, or the more fluid output that can come from the sudden adjustment to a lush pasture! As owners and carer-givers we should be aware of the impact a sudden dietary change can have on the horse’s digestive system and try to manage this accordingly.
Consider The Difference In Nutrient Composition Of Hay And Lush Pasture
One of the golden rules of feeding is to make any dietary changes very gradually to help the digestive system adapt to the new feeds but we can often forget about this when dealing with our conserved forages and grassland. If your horse has been stabled over the winter months and living on a diet of hay, consider the differences in nutrient composition of the hay and a lush pasture; grass offers a much higher water content and often higher non-structural carbohydrates such as sugars. For a horse to suddenly switch from hay to grass this may cause disruptions in the populations of microbes which inhabit various components of the gastrointestinal tract and help with the digestion process.
Introduce Any Changes To A Horses Diet Gradually
During this transition try to manage the changes slowly by following a couple of these tips:
- Turnout gradually so the horse is out for a couple of hours at a time before being out for 12 or 24 hours at once
- Keep providing your usual forage alongside any pasture to act as a constant
- Monitor any sudden changes to your horse’s behaviour, condition or health
- Adjust your ration to take into account the increase in energy that may be provided by grass
- Be extra cautious if managing an overweight horse or one that is prone to metabolic disorders such as laminitis or Cushing’s syndrome.