Feed questions: Moving to greener grasses
Hello there. I bought my horse 6 months ago from an area 3 hrs north of where I am. I slowly changed his feed and hay (he was on all purpose feed and coastal). Well I am relocating my family, and my horse Cooper to North Carolina in 2 months. I have google'd this and cant find answers. Since you have to slowly switch feed and hay I need to know:
Since the grass that grows here in FL is completely different than NC grass, do I need to slowly get him used to the difference? How gradually should I do it? He is in a sand paddock right now but still gets time to graze here. Up there, we're going to be on 6 lushly grassed acres. Any suggestions? Anything i'm not thinking of as far as the big change goes? I have blankets for when it gets cold... any suggestions greatly appreciated.
Changing feed gradually is best, but generally matters more for 'hard feed' than to grass/hay. However, I wouldn't just plonk him on 6 lush acres - gradually or otherwise, as the huge amount of sugars in it is a very real issue, not only for obesity but for insulin resistance problems and the conditions, such as colic & founder that go along with it. Therefore I would ensure those 6 acres are fenced in such a way to restrict his grazing - google 'paddock paradise' for some excellent ideas. Otherwise a grazing muzzle may be in order, to begin with and when the grass is lush.
He shouldnt be allowed to eventually free graze? There are 3 oher horses on the acreage who dont get hay or grain. Though, i strongly believe in the grain I feed (SafeChoice), they seem perfectly content. It is one large pasture. I will live on 6 of 19 acres that the property is, and the fenced portion for the horses is not mine to tell them to fence off more. I will do that google search, but I couldnt find anything specific as far as changing the actual grass.Seeing as i'll be working right away when I move, I guess I'll stall him 23 hrs a day? Let him graze when i get home for a short time then put him back into his stall? I do ride 4-5 x's a week but was hoping he could run and frolick with the other horses.
Sorry, wasn't very clear. Depends how lush it is. I also didn't know about the other horses & was thinking he'd have all that grass to himself. Depends how eaten out it is too. It may be OK for him to just go for it, but then again, it may not. I'm a hoof care practitioner and I appreciate - unfortunately including from much first hand experience - the problems lush grass & rich feed commonly causes horses. safergrass.org is one place you can learn more. hoofrehab.com also has some good nutritional links & info to be found.
I definitely think it's important for horses to be horses, and I would definitely avoid locking him up regularly, especially if it's anything remotely in the realm of 23 hrs a day. He needs free movement, along with being part of a herd if possible. I would either try a grazing muzzle or fence off a laneway or such of the paddock, so he can at least be out & about & around the other horses, if he can't be with them. Regarding difficulties of fencing, temporary electric fencing may be something you can consider.
He will absolutely be able to free graze, just not right away. Especially if he is not on grass full time right now. He will need time for his gut to adjust to the new (richer?) grass. So yeah, only on grass an hour or so first day, then slowly bump it up. He should be fine in 10 to 14 days if he shows no ill effects.
As mentioned, weaning on gradually is best. It is not worth it to rush a horse on grass and have them founder or colic. The bacteria in their gut needs time to adjust to the new feed. If you need a schedule to follow I'd be happy to send you one.
Frankly I doubt there are any lush pastures in NC right now. We are towards north and there is no green grass left (at least around me) with that afwul weather we are having. All fields are crunchy and yellow. All my neighbors feed hay right now. :(
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