Grazing as a Treat? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 12 Old 09-02-2019, 11:20 PM Thread Starter
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Grazing as a Treat?

Hi everybody!

I'm just wondering anyone's opinion on this. My mare is a very easy keeper, and I have her in a dry lot on a correctly portioned amount of hay per day to avoid any issues. She recently lost quite a bit of weight, and we are trying to keep it off! She's never foundered before to my knowledge, but she is certainly the body type that could easily develop issues with that. My farrier pointed out a couple trims ago that her laminae are ever so slightly stretched, so it's just something I should keep an eye on.

My question is: is it okay to let her graze for a little bit as a treat every once in a while? I like to let her loose in the grass arena from time to time, just to sit and spend time with her. Usually I will let her eat for about 20-30 minutes. Is it okay to do this? I didn't think anything of it, but I heard someone mention that horses can founder from even small amounts of grass, so now I'm sweating, lol!
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post #2 of 12 Old 09-03-2019, 12:20 AM
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Horses were meant to graze. They are grazing animals. In the spring I always ease mine into grazing, gradually increasing the time on grass so they don't get too much too quick. As the spring and summer progress they are allowed to graze as long as they want and are on pasture 24/7. They don't need feed unless you are using them hard or they are young developing horses , unless they are hard keepers. Are wild horses restricted from grazing?
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post #3 of 12 Old 09-03-2019, 12:28 AM Thread Starter
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I’ve decided along with my vet that allowing her free grazing is just not the best option for her. She was not turned out on grass at all in Spring, as she was severely overweight then (when I purchased her). I’m more wondering if it’s alright for her to graze as a treat every now and then, since she is not typically allowed pasture.
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post #4 of 12 Old 09-03-2019, 01:54 AM
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I am in a very similar boat. The horse I lease is an easy keeper. He has been overweight since I ever met him, six years ago. I got him to shed a fair amount of weight by riding him a LOT. He never has showed signs of laminitus, but has the tell tale cresty neck and butt pillows of fat of an insulin resistant horse, so care must be taken.


He is on a dry paddock now for 5 months. He has lost a lot of weight, and looks like a normal horse now. (I am so proud of him!). But, even with a slow feeder, he ends up with no hay for many hours at a time, every day. He is always hungry and thinking about food.


I take him out almost every day for about 40 minutes on the grass. This has helped tremendously with his sanity. Just being FREE to move, to 'seek' the good grass, to nuzzle and pull the tastier bits, ignore the not so good ones. He LOVES it, and after this, he is so much happier to go for a ride.


I also reason that it gives him nutrients , like micro vitamin and minerals, that he cannot get from dried hay of a single species. If we are able to put him back in the herd, to open graze, he will need to maintain a familiarity with grass.
What I mean is that if you take a horse that almost never gets grass, and put him out on the grass, he will get sick, quite likely. If he gets SOME grass on a regular basis, he will be more able to make the switch . . . . or so goes my rationale. I could be wrong, but that horse is SO happy to see me when he knows he will get his free time on the grass. I simply MUST indulge him his little pleasures.
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post #5 of 12 Old 09-03-2019, 06:22 AM
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Like you, we grazed a couple of high risk but non-laminitic Highlands most days for around 10 minutes; it allowed them to relax and act naturally. We'd experienced laminitis with a friend's Highland mare and used the information as a guide. She'd tried everything from no grazing and limited grazing to double haynets, muzzles and feeding nettles. We felt that a little amount of grass was a good balance.

We kept them in-hand as the routine quickly taught them that their free time was limited, so they often tried to stuff-in as much grass as possible before they were returned to their dry field. I doubt that we'd have caught them if we'd allowed them to go free, even in a small area.

It'll depend on your grass, how it's been managed and weather etc but we grazed them at night and in the morning, as well as in shaded areas, to get the lowest sugars. We also avoided cold and frosty mornings when the grass hadn't been able to grow and use-up stored sugars. We can get really cold nights and sunny warm days well in to late spring and from early autumn.
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post #6 of 12 Old 09-03-2019, 06:46 AM
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Yes, I agree with others who say it's great to give even insulin resistant horses some grass at times as a treat. For one thing, it takes horses quite a long time to eat a pound of grass (dry matter), so they aren't getting a whole lot if you let them graze for less than an hour. I wouldn't do it with a horse actively having laminitis, but any others, even high risk horses I would. I believe like @tinyliny says that they can get vitamin E and micronutrients this way.

Quote:
@ksbowman: Are wild horses restricted from grazing?
Yes, they are. They don't have access to improved, lush pastureland. Instead, wild horses are restricted to sparse, dry land that requires they browse around and travel long distances in order to get enough grazing. Because of this, many mustangs have genes that have selected to make them able to live off such restricted forage, and if you put them into a lush, improved pasture they will quickly develop insulin resistance and laminitis.
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post #7 of 12 Old 09-03-2019, 08:38 AM
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I think it's a good idea to let your horse graze, even a little bit. Let him out at night or in the early morning, when sugars in the grass tend to be lowest. Also note that frost or drought-stressed grass can be higher in sugars.
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post #8 of 12 Old 09-03-2019, 09:27 AM
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I think for 15 minutes or so getting to graze is just fine. Don't think I'd turn her loose might be really hard to catch her again.

Being she doesn't get grass regularly it will be a good treat.

My own horse's live on pasture from may till end of November. Don't think they would be to happy living on drylot.
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post #9 of 12 Old 09-03-2019, 10:16 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tinyliny View Post
I take him out almost every day for about 40 minutes on the grass. This has helped tremendously with his sanity. Just being FREE to move, to 'seek' the good grass, to nuzzle and pull the tastier bits, ignore the not so good ones. He LOVES it, and after this, he is so much happier to go for a ride.
I also reason that it gives him nutrients , like micro vitamin and minerals, that he cannot get from dried hay of a single species. If we are able to put him back in the herd, to open graze, he will need to maintain a familiarity with grass.
What I mean is that if you take a horse that almost never gets grass, and put him out on the grass, he will get sick, quite likely. If he gets SOME grass on a regular basis, he will be more able to make the switch . . . . or so goes my rationale. I could be wrong, but that horse is SO happy to see me when he knows he will get his free time on the grass. I simply MUST indulge him his little pleasures.
This is exactly my thinking, too! She loves to graze and it is so relaxing for us to just let her loose to graze for 30 minutes while I sit in the grass with her. She'll graze until she reaches where I'm sitting and then bumps me with her nose, it's very sweet! If she ever does need to go out on grass again, I want her body to have some familiarity with it.

Thanks everyone so much for the responses! Glad to know it's alright to let her graze here and there for a little bit of time. It just makes her happy, so I'm relieved to know there's no harm in it!
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post #10 of 12 Old 09-04-2019, 11:38 AM
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I'd seek out crummy grass if you can. When I had a fatty mcfatterson Morgan cross mare on a drylot to get her weight down before she foundered, I'd lead her down to the end of the driveway and let her graze on the long, mature grass in the road ditch for 15-20 minutes every day or two. Mature, long-stem grass is healthier for horses than short, lush grass plus higher in fiber and lower in sugar, plus it also got her over her silliness about traffic. She was so absorbed in GRASS! that she stopped caring about the tractors, trucks, and cars whizzing by. Win-win!

She was smart. I set a timer on my watch and when she heard it beep, she knew her time was up. She'd sigh, snatch one more big mouthful, then come up next to me and we'd go back to the barn.

Sometimes I'd take a hand-scythe down and cut an armful of that grass to scatter in her pen, where she would spend a few hours seeking out every wisp, good for her mentally and physically, too. That and her slow-feed net gave her a few hours of 'grazing' alongside her buddies across the fence on full-time pasture that she would gaze at longingly as they ate all day and she didn't.

Some horses cannot tolerate ANY grass, especially if it's short and stressed/overgrazed, so use caution with your mare.

Last edited by SilverMaple; 09-04-2019 at 11:43 AM.
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