There are lots of horses headed for the grass right now. And depending on the horse and the grass, unlimited grazing can be a major cause of equine health problems. Too much green grass can put horses at risk for weight gain, Insulin Resistance, Cushing’s Syndrome, laminitis, skin problems, poor immunity, joint inflammation, and more. Here are a few prevention tips for horses that are grazing on spring grass.
1.Graze them when sugars are low
The best time to graze horses is at night when the sun is down. During the day when the sun is out sugar production is at its peak. When the sun goes down and sugar production stops, the plants use the accumulated sugar for energy and growth. This reduces the sugar concentration in the plant, and thus the amount of sugar that your horse is consuming.
However, if the growing conditions are stressing the plant, the sugars will be much more concentrated. Conditions such as drought, colder temperatures, over-grazing, or depleted soils will prevent grasses from using sugar for energy. For example, grazing when the sun is shining, in a drought can increase your horse’s sugar intake. These conditions will cause sugars to accumulate because they aren’t being used for plant growth.
2. Leave hay out for them and add more fibre to their diet
The second thing you can do to prevent over-consumption of grass is to provide hay in slow feeders at the same time. Grass has very little fibre and the extra fibre in hay helps to slow down sugar absorption. Most horses will gladly nibble on hay along with the grass.
You can also increase dietary fibre with one-two cups of soaked beet pulp and/or add dietary protein with one-two cups of alfalfa pellets, or some soaked grass-alfalfa hay cubes.
Adding more fibre or supplementing with a bit of extra protein will help lower the glycemic index and thus lower blood sugar and insulin. This is a key component to formulating a metabolic friendly program.
3. Make sure they are getting regular exercise
The more they exercise the more sugar they can handle without adverse effects. Keep them moving. Walking while they graze is not enough. Setting up feeding stations, hand-walking them, or free lunging are all great ways to keep them moving. Even walking them for 10 minutes at a time, three times per week is enough to significantly increase the number of insulin receptors in their muscle and tissues.
Exercise will not only help lower blood sugar and increase their tolerance for sugar, but it will also contribute to their overall health and well-being. Physical activity helps food move through their digestive system, encourage detoxification, and reduce boredom and stress.
If your horse is on spring grass, following some simple prevention tips can not only help prevent the onset or worsening of sugar related health conditions but they can also help with their recovery. By grazing them when the sugars are low, increasing their fibre, and making sure they are getting plenty of exercise you will be promoting good health and well-being all around.
Interested in learning more?
My online course, Healing Horses Their Way, will show you how to prevent and promote recovery for a variety of horse health conditions including Insulin Resistance, Cushing’s Syndrome, Laminitis, and so much more! Get on the wait list here…
I am an animal lover, health consultant, scientist and educator. I am passionate about delivering safe and effective health care to all animals but horses and dogs have a special place in my heart. I believe that through education and awareness of natural animal health we can drastically improve their quality of life and longevity. I invite you to join me on my quest to make the world a better place for all of them.