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  • September 07, 2023 3 min read

    Spring Dietary Changes for Horses: What Every Horse Owner Should Know

    Spring has definitely arrived with greener pastures and warmer weather. However, a change in season will often bring forth a multitude of changes in the environment, and for horse owners, it marks a crucial transition period in the dietary management of our equines. As the grass grows greener and the days grow longer, specific considerations ensure the well-being and optimum health of our horses. In this article, we have put together the most important points for you to consider when transitioning your horse to spring, and all that green grass!

    1. Transition to Fresh Pasture 
    As the dormant winter grass is replaced by fresh, lush spring grass, horses naturally gravitate towards it. However, this fresh grass is rich in water and sugars, which can be a drastic change from winter pasture and hay. Transitioning your horse gradually over several weeks, starting with just a few hours of grazing per day and increasing incrementally, can help prevent digestive upsets like colic or laminitis. For horses that don’t need the extra calories, or for those that have metabolic issues, investing in a good quality grazing muzzle will help reduce the amount of grass that is consumed. 
    1. Monitor for Laminitis

    Laminitis, an inflammation of the tissue inside the hoof, is more common in the spring due to the high sugar content in fresh grass. Horse owners should be vigilant about signs of laminitis such as lameness, a strong digital pulse, or heat in the hooves. If any of these symptoms appear, it’s essential to contact a vet immediately.

    1. Balance with Hay

    Even with abundant spring grass, it's a good idea to continue offering hay. This provides a consistent source of fibre and can help balance out the rich sugars found in spring grasses. For overweight horses or those prone to laminitis, limiting pasture time, wearing a grazing muzzle and providing a low-sugar hay can be beneficial.

    1. Adjust Grain and Concentrates

    With the added nutrition from fresh pasture, many horses may not require as much grain or concentrate. Monitor your horse’s body condition and energy levels and adjust supplemental feeds accordingly. Overfeeding can lead to obesity, which presents its own set of health issues.

    1. Hydration is Key

    Spring can bring fluctuating temperatures. Ensuring that your horse has constant access to fresh and clean water will aid in digestion and overall health. While horses may drink less water when consuming moisture-rich spring grass, always ensure they have the option.

    1. Beware of Plants and Toxins

    Spring growth can sometimes bring forth harmful plants. Familiarise yourself with toxic plants in your region, and regularly inspect your pasture to ensure none are present. Common culprits include cape tulip, cape weed and Paterson's Curse.

    1. Check for Dental Issues

    A horse's dental health directly impacts its ability to process different feeds. Spring is an excellent time to have your horse's teeth checked and floated if necessary. This ensures they can efficiently graze and chew the fresh grass and hay.

    1. Consider Supplements

    If you're concerned about any nutritional gaps in your horse's diet during the spring transition, consult with an equine nutritionist or veterinarian. They might recommend specific supplements, such as a balanced mineral mix or a hoof supplement, to ensure your horse gets all the nutrients it needs.

    1. Monitor Weight and Condition

    Spring can lead to weight gain in many horses due to the calorie-rich nature of fresh grass. Regularly body score your horse and adjust their diet and exercise routine accordingly. A great way to monitor your horse is to simply take a photo (side view) every few months to ensure that their weight does not fluctuate. A horse that becomes overweight in the spring may face health issues later in the year.

    1. Seek Expert Advice

    Every horse is an individual with unique needs. If you're unsure about any aspect of your horse’s diet, never hesitate to seek advice from equine nutritionists or veterinarians. This is particularly true if your horse suffers from metabolic disorders or is prone to laminitis.  

    Spring is an exciting time for both horse and owner - who can say no to more time spent with your horse?! With the world bursting into life, horses enjoy the bounties of fresh pastures. But with these rewards come the responsibilities of management and vigilance. By understanding the nutritional challenges and changes of the spring season, horse owners can ensure their equine companions remain healthy, happy, and ready to embrace the year ahead.

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