Getting used to grass?
My two horses are moving home this weekend! Eek I'm so excited! My horse's new home is a pretty large fertile field with lots of yummy stuff for them. I've had it checked and made sure everything was horsey-safe. My mare is a big chunky draft horse who's an easy keeper and I hand graze her fairly often and she never has trouble on grass. My new pony on the other hand hasn't had more than a few bites of fresh, growing grass in years! They're both in dry lots. I know they both need to be weaned onto eating the grass, but I was wondering how - how long should they be allowed out a day to get used to eating grass again? I imagine my drafty mare would be able to be out longer than the pony at first, but how long? and how long should I limit it? Could they ever get to the point I could leave them out all day?
Thanks for all your help!
Of course you can 'get to the point' of leaving them out 24/7, so long as they're not getting too much overall - eg. IR/lami risk. But the big difference between grass & hay is only water content - unfortunately hay doesn't lose sugar in the drying/storing. So to play it safe, yes, I'd 'wean' them onto it over a week or so, to see how they go. If the paddock's big & rich & especially if yours are 'easy keepers' I think being proactive with regard to IR/lami is important though.
That is actually what I'm afraid of my mare is pretty overweight and is eating less grain than the light breed horses at the rescue and the same amount of hay! I don't know what she's eating but she's pretty chunky (her but jiggles when I curry her shoulder xD). It's also lack of exercise which will hopefully get better once they move. But my pony I'm concerned about too he's kinda chunky with a little light frame. How long should I let them out the first few days?
If you're worried about them being fat, why is your big horse getting ANY grain?? I'd probably start on a few hours of grass, but consider a grazing muzzle, track setup or such to reduce grazing & consider putting hay in a 'slow feeder'. Feeding a (grain free) ration balancer or good complete nutritional supp should supply most of the nutrients they need.
Remember obesity related laminitis is due to insulin resistance, which is the same sort of thing as type 2 diabetes - even if an animal doesn't get actually 'obese', being long term overweight without regular 'bad seasons' to use the fat stores is what tends to cause this metabolic problem.
Can she really go off grain? All our horses get grain, we feed individual grains + supplements rather than processed feed. She gets about 1 cup of crimped oats, 1 cup of alfalfa pellets, 1/4 cup of crushed corn + MSM and brewer's yeast - that 3 times a day. Plus hay, she typically gets the less good hay cause she's a young draft who can actually eat it, the better stuff gets fed to the rescues who have a worse time with their teeth and keeping the weight on.
I suppose I could drop her down to 2 feedings of her grain once I move but I don't feel comfortable taking her off completely - I'd say she's about 50-75 pounds over weight her weight tape puts her at 1400, she's a short 15.2 draft horse. But she also gets almost no exercise, which will change once we move - I have a little riding area now!
The pony gets the same grain but tiny portions, 1/4 cup of crimped oats, 1/4 cup of alfalfa pellets, 1/8 cup of crushed corn, MSM and brewer's yeast. He gets that twice a day. Personally I don't think he's overweight, but he's definitely not 'fit'. We'll work on that too.
Thank you for the interesting info! A grazing muzzle is a good idea. Thanks again :)
I have had so much trouble getting some of my mares to gain weight due to having a foal at foot but to keep feeding any grains at all to a fat or heavy weighted horse is a little silly!!!!
Just be gentle with the weaning over and cut out the grains, fresh grass of high nutritional value has all they need, look at mineral buckets too, I use these in our paddocks its great for supplying trace minerals and stops them getting sand collics from eating dirt.
really? xD I feel so silly right now - every horse I've ever known has had equal to or more grain than that! Even our non-working rescues. Most have been normal weights, mine's not seriously over weight, just chunky. I will probably cut back on her grain considering the added quality of grass.
But I guess my question is how long to ease them in? Like how long the first few days should they be allowed out?
Can you stop grain?? Of course! If the horse isn't an athlete, 'poor doer' or otherwise needing 'high octane fuel', there's absolutely no need for it. Even if they do need the extra energy, there are other healthier alternatives anyway. Grain is generally not the best for horses anyway IMO, due to it being high starch & low fibre & hard to digest. Corn is VERY high starch - somewhere around 70%! - so should be particularly avoided.
Oats are a bit of an exception, but generally all grains fed should be well processed - cooked, micronised, etc - so that it's easier for the horse to digest and especially starchy feed should also be fed little & often(if it's going to be fed at all that is), which will maximise the amount of energy the horse gets from it and reduces the 'side effects' feeding this type of diet causes. So rather than cutting down amount of meals, cut the amount per meal.
I'd personally forget the grain - with the good pasture you speak of, you'll probably have enough probs managing their weight without it - and start feeding them a good complete nutritional supp/grain free ration balancer or such, to help their diets be better balanced.
I suppose you're not comfortable removing the grain completely because it's something that you've always done, not to mention I think you're wise if you're taking any advice here with a... lump of rocksalt! ;-) I don't advise you take our words for it, but I do suggest you do some study into equine nutrition & feeding, to come to a more informed decision.
TBH it is a suck it and see thing with how long the weaning over takes but it may take a few days of an hour then 4 then adding hours until you get from putting them out first thing in the morning and bringing them in at dusk, but next step is all night, some horses don't like it and it can actually do some psychological damage to an other wise well handled and cared for horse to put them out and leave them out over night.
I know just adding things to be considered when looking to put your horses out to pasture.
For me I would just put them out in the morning and bring them in as late as I could and if inclement weather makes it uncomfortable for them to be outside.
See how you go...
No my horses will be locked in at night - my pony is tiny and I don't trust that there aren't animals that could make a meal of him if I left him out. My mare wouldn't stay out if her friend wasn't there too.
Loosie: Thank you! I actually have studied quite a bit of equine nutrition, but mostly what each grain contains, in studying I have found pretty much everything you've just said - honestly I'd love to take them off the corn - it's so high energy and so low anything good. I may put them down to just crimped oats, alfalfa pellets and their supplements. I like the alfalfa pellets because my mare came with some ulcer problems but they were quickly quieted down away on an alfalfa based diet. She still gets mixed hay, typically first cut as she eats anything else like a vacuum cleaner xD. Right now I am feeding them what the owner of the rescue recommends, as I'm keeping them on her property and the pony was one of hers. But I do think there are a number of things I'd change - including getting rid of corn. But I don't think I'd be completely comfortable taking them off grain completely as they both are So healthy, just a little chunky. They are shiny, never colic, never sore or lame, they're just perfect so I don't want to mess with a good thing. But a bit of exercise will do them some serious good! The pony will be starting horsey agility training - that'll get him in shape! and once my mare's moved I can actually freaking ride her a bit!
Thank you all so much for your suggestions. I think I'm going to start ith 1-2 hours on grass for my mare and half an hour of grass for the pony the first day and just add half hour each day until I know they're good. :D Thanks!!
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