Spring is coming. Create a grazing schedule to reduce spring colic risk.
In early spring, many horses find themselves confined to their stalls. Why? To prevent damage to fragile, growing pasture grass. In theory, this is a good idea: you definitely want a full stand of nutritious grass for summer forage. But when horses are confined during this period of intense grass growth, they are not eating green or live grass. Their digestive system is used to hay and other non-forage foodstuffs. Meanwhile, the new grass is growing fast and producing high levels of sugars and carbohydrates.
Released onto lush pasture, horses devour these sweet, tender blades. The micro-organisms in the gut go into overdrive, trying to digest the carbs, the gut produces large quantities of gas…and your horse colics.
The solution? No sudden changes. In early spring when the pasture is fragile, limit grazing to 15 minutes a day for a week. Gradually increase grazing in 15-minute increments until the horses are out for 3 or 4 hours. Allow 4 hours of grazing for 2 weeks, then allow full access. During this limited grazing period, continue to feed hay on their regular schedule.
In cold weather, increase hay, not grains. Yes, your horse needs more energy to keep warm, but the increased carbohydrates found in grain can lead to stomach upset. Additionally, hay is a more efficient “heat source” for your horse. Your horse digests hay with the help of microbes found in the cecum and colon. These organisms give off lots of body-warming metabolic heat.
There are some very complex calculations available to determine how much additional hay your horse may need, but this suggestion from Elizabeth Goldsmith at EquineInk.com simplifies the matter beautifully:
A good rule of thumb: for every 10 degrees F below freezing (including wind chill temperature), feed 10% more hay than usual. But better yet, offer grass hay-free-choice. His digestive system requires a steady supply of forage and the best way to do this (and the most convenient for you) is to keep hay available at all times, day and night.
How to avoid grain overload in horses?
Store grain securely to avoid grain overload in horses. Share your grain storage tips below.
Gastric ruptures are usually caused by grain overload. A wayward horse finds her way into the grain storage area and just starts eating. And eating. Depending on the size of your horse, it may only take 10 to 15 pounds of grain to set off a deadly chain of events.
Grain overload is a serious situation. The earlier the condition is treated, the better the outcome. Contact your veterinarian at once. She may administer laxatives, mineral oil, fluids or anti-inflammatories.
Keep all grains bins securely locked and do not store concentrates or beet pulp in a location that is accessible to your horse. If possible, store grain and beet pulp in separate, locked storage areas.
Stack-N-Stor pet food storage bins hold up to 65 pounds and stack securely. Most importantly, they can be locked to keep out curious horses.
Old chest freezers (latches and electrical cords removed and horse-proof catches installed on the outside) make excellent, rodent-proof storage containers, as do metal garbage cans…lids locked, of course.
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