Pasture Bad? Dry Lot Only Better? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 17 Old 10-15-2016, 05:01 PM Thread Starter
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Pasture Bad? Dry Lot Only Better?

Yesterday after having Little Horse's (Welsh/Qtr, 12 yo, 12-2h mare) feet trimmed, I asked the young farrier if he thought she was at risk of foot disease from getting too fat, as she clearly has fat pads showing on her hips where then a depression is showing as goes into tail area.

He told me best to take her totally off pasture and restrict her to corral area with dry hay only, as horses could be at risk of Cushing's type disease and Equine Metabolic disorders if eating grass due to high water content. Said may seem unfair, but he's done that with his horses as doesn't want to risk harming their health.

The day before, I'd mentioned to owner of the feed store my extreme worry about founder (as it happened 15 years ago with a previous Shetland pony), so am taking LH off pasture each day after about 6 hours. He has horses, told me that at this time of year, wouldn't worry about it. We're having frost now in mornings, can block off pasture to 2-1/2 acres (then also split into two sides), so is kept somewhat eaten down by 3 llamas, small molly mule and LH, although she still finds and grabs big bites of grass when loosed from the corral each morning and is clearly eating each moment that she can.

Is this true that horses are so greatly at risk from pasture grass? Has anyone come across articles they could refer me to that explain best pasture management for equines or health concerns due to green grass? Besides getting a bit fat, I don't see my LH showing signs of not feeling good, but is it likely that things are going on inside her body that won't be seen until it's too late to correct?

Will those of you with similar situations please share how you handle access to pasture or those with knowledge about these diseases let me know how likely they are to occur from limited time on pasture? I don't want to risk her health, but for a horse to have no access to pasture and walking around room seems extreme to me. Thanks for any thoughts.
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post #2 of 17 Old 10-15-2016, 05:19 PM
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High water content doesn't increase the risk of EMS or Cushing's. Now, in a horse with Cushings or EMS, unlimited pasture and pasture that is stressed (drought, eaten very short) can increase the risk of issues due to the high non-structural carbohydrate content. However, just because a horse is heavy doesn't mean that he has Cushings or EMS.

You may want to restrict your pony's grazing or increase exercise to achieve and maintain a better body weight, but going to strictly a dry lot and hay is not necessary. If you are feeding any concentrate, you want to decrease it. Increase daily work time/load. Possibly apply a grazing muzzle for part of the day or limit the time that your pony is out on pasture. Or a combination of these things, as necessary.
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post #3 of 17 Old 10-15-2016, 07:01 PM
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Originally Posted by LlamaPacker View Post
Yesterday after having Little Horse's (Welsh/Qtr, 12 yo, 12-2h mare) feet trimmed, I asked the young farrier if he thought she was at risk of foot disease from getting too fat, as she clearly has fat pads showing on her hips where then a depression is showing as goes into tail area.

He told me best to take her totally off pasture and restrict her to corral area with dry hay only, as horses could be at risk of Cushing's type disease and Equine Metabolic disorders if eating grass due to high water content. Said may seem unfair, but he's done that with his horses as doesn't want to risk harming their health. Cushings/EMS are NOT caused by eating grass with high water content. Some diseases/health issues are exacerbated by the high sugars in grass and can tip the scales in an already stressed horse (some are more sensitive then others). Water content is irrelevant, I mean they drink water right? Cushing's is unlikely to be a concern due to her age (it's seen in older horses), but there's no way to tell over the internet for other issues. Simply being fat, while not a disease isn't good either, so you definitely need to address that, so yes I would pull her from the pasture to lose the weight as well as being safe.

The day before, I'd mentioned to owner of the feed store my extreme worry about founder (as it happened 15 years ago with a previous Shetland pony), so am taking LH off pasture each day after about 6 hours. He has horses, told me that at this time of year, wouldn't worry about it. We're having frost now in mornings, can block off pasture to 2-1/2 acres (then also split into two sides), so is kept somewhat eaten down by 3 llamas, small molly mule and LH, although she still finds and grabs big bites of grass when loosed from the corral each morning and is clearly eating each moment that she can. Not true, the fall is the highest risk season due to how stressed the grass is (it overcompensates to try to stay alive). Sounds like she's eating plenty in 6 hours!

Is this true that horses are so greatly at risk from pasture grass? Has anyone come across articles they could refer me to that explain best pasture management for equines or health concerns due to green grass? Can't think of anything off the top of my head, but check out google. FWIW those are 2 separate issues and separate from the risk of laminitis in a predisposed horse triggered by the grass.Besides getting a bit fat, I don't see my LH showing signs of not feeling good, but is it likely that things are going on inside her body that won't be seen until it's too late to correct? If you are that concerned you can have her tested for health issues. But as said, just fat isn't good, and she may develop issues as she ages, so no reason not to play it safe.

Will those of you with similar situations please share how you handle access to pasture or those with knowledge about these diseases let me know how likely they are to occur from limited time on pasture? I don't want to risk her health, but for a horse to have no access to pasture and walking around room seems extreme to me. Thanks for any thoughts.
As I said above, grass does NOT cause diseases. High sugars in grass can be dangerous to a sensitive horse (as are high sugars in ANYTHING, you can keep your horse off grass and feed them pounds of sweet feed and you will have the same issues). Any horse is at risk, but diseases can make a horse more at risk.

Talk to your vet about it.

My gelding has Cushings/Insulin Resistance (often seen together) and we diagnosed it when he suddenly became laminitic and we had the vet out. Multiple factors including green grass in the spring. Since then he is on medication for the Cushings but his feet still aren't 100% (you can't "fix" Cushings, just manage the symptoms). He can go on limited grass and only with a grazing muzzle. Would probably be better off grass, but since he's ok with a little we try to do it. Some horses are ok with a lot less, some a lot more.
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post #4 of 17 Old 10-15-2016, 07:28 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you for your input. It wasn't making sense to me after reading articles and posts about Cushings and other diseases that, except for foundering, they were being caused by the grass or weight gain. I will leave her out for shorter times, since she seems to be getting too much (don't think exercise will increase any now that cold weather is coming), but am relieved to find out that she can probably safely enjoy being out with the others for at least part of the day.
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post #5 of 17 Old 10-15-2016, 07:45 PM
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Yup, the health issues simply make them more sensitive to the negative effects of food (among other things).

For example, if a healthy horse ate a bag of sweet feed a primary concern would be laminitis. Now for my horse even a quart or two of sweet feed (something many healthy horses eat just fine) would probably trigger a laminitic episode. Same with grass.

Get her weight down, but otherwise I wouldn't worry about it if she seems completely healthy!
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post #6 of 17 Old 10-16-2016, 12:55 AM Thread Starter
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Timothy Hay Not Good for Horses???

On another note, was also told by farrier that Timothy hay is not good for horses. Do you know anything about that? That's what we generally get for our llamas, as they should have a grass-type hay, and was hoping to feed all the same thing. This equine ownership (mule and horse) is sure turning out to be more complicated than expected!
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post #7 of 17 Old 10-17-2016, 07:01 AM
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Further to what others have said... Check out Equine Cushings & Insulin Resistance Group for GOOD info on the subject/diseases.

If your horse is fat, she is not *necessarily* EMS or such. Cushings is not necessarily a dietary disease, but is due to chronic stress on the body(commonly but not always laminitis & obesity) which causes inflammation, particularly in the pituitary gland. If your horse has what you describe as 'fat pads' it is, however, very likely(without seeing, not sure...) she is obese, not just 'fat', and it has been a chronic problem. If 'fat pads' are hard, it IS likely she is EMS/IR.

DRY hay is not necessarily any different, in regards to sugar content, as fresh grass. Sugars are only used/lost in active growing, so once grass is cut, sugars are 'locked in', unless the hay is soaked & drained before feeding, to leach out sugars. I'm not sure about Timothy, whether it's particularly rich, and with any grass, it depends how it's grown & when it's cut as to how much sugar, but if you're not sure, you can soak a little of it, in a little water for a while, and the browner the water that comes off it, the higher sugar content - then you have a better idea of whether you should leach it before feeding or not, to 'at risk' horses.

If your little pony is obese, there's a fair bet your mule is too, as with her donkey blood, she's likely an extremely easy keeper, more at risk of EMS/diet related laminitis than a horse that size.

Re how much time/when to graze, remember grasses produce/increase sugars with photosynthesis, and use them over night in growing. So the safest time to graze *generally* is in the 'wee hours' and early morning, with highest sugar content being in the afternoon/early evening of a sunny day. BUT grasses 'shut down' & don't grow when stressed, including when there's frost, so can continue to just accumulate sugars without using them up. The frost factor is biggest in spring & autumn, which is why I think they are the riskiest times of year for laminitis.

Some info I've found helpful; [COLOR=Lime][B]www.horseforum.com/horse-health/hoof-lameness-info-horse-owners-89836/
For taking critique pics; [COLOR=Lime][B]https://www.horseforum.com/members/41...res-128437.jpg
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post #8 of 17 Old 10-17-2016, 12:38 PM
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We have a previously foundered mare and she gets pasture time for 1 hour each day. And as early in the morning as I can get out there. Stressed grass (grass that is eaten down and over grazed) produces more sugar to help it grow. So grass in the spring and in the early fall is normally higher in sugar. Early morning grass has less sugars than grass in the afternoon.

I feel Oats and Timothy hay pellets to my founder prone horse and she looks fantastic. My 4 horses spend the majority of the day in a dry lot and get hay 3 times each day in a slow feeder. All are at a good weight and feet have never been better.
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post #9 of 17 Old 10-17-2016, 04:13 PM
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Timothy hay is excellent for horses assuming it was swathed and baled at the proper time and didn't get rained on. For years timothy hay was promoted as one of the best hays for horses. However since you are concerned about sugars, buy enough at a time to make it worth having the hay tested----your county agricultural agent will be able to help you with.


Also, studies have found that horses on limited turnout will consume a lot more per that allotted time than horses on 24/7 pasture simply because the pasture horses know the grass will always be available for them to graze. Better might be a grazing muzzle so she can enjoy being out on pasture, but her consumption will be limited.
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post #10 of 17 Old 10-17-2016, 09:23 PM
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Timothy isn't good for horses?

Better rescue the entire New England horse population from their neglect!

I believe it's equally popular throughout the country, though less available in some areas it's pretty widespead.

And there's a LOT of horses around here... and a lot of fancy places too. That mostly feed timothy.
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