Go Slow On
grasses start greening up in the spring, you might be tempted to turn
your horse loose in the pasture to chow down on the new grass.
But be aware that any sudden change in your horse's diet could cause
health problems, says Steve Jones, associate professor/extension equine
specialist with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.
"Whether it's the grain, hay or pasture grass, any change in the
horse's diet should be spread over several days or weeks," Jones says.
"Increases in the amount of grain given to a horse should be added at a
half-pound a day until the desired amount of grain is reached."
Grain increases may be needed because of an increase in activity level
or for a mare during lactation. If the grain amount is increased too
quickly, colic or founder may occur, he said.
When introducing a new type of hay or grain it should replace the old
feed at a rate of 25 percent every other day, taking a total of six
days until the horse is completely on the new feed.
Feed intake or eagerness to consume the diet may decrease during this
changeover period. If this occurs, more time may be needed for the
horse to adjust to the new feed.
"When a horse is to be turned out on pasture all day, especially if the
pasture is lush and green, time on pasture should be gradually
increased to avoid overeating, in a manner similar to increasing the
grain," Jones says.
Horses should be provided with all the hay they want to eat about a
week prior to the start of complete pasture turnout.
The time on pasture should be increased by an hour each day for four to
five days. Then, before the horse is going to be turned out completely
on pasture, provide a hay meal.
"It's important to remember that each horse is different," Jones notes.
Some horses take more time to adjust to dietary changes than others. So
monitor the horse's eating habits and health status closely during this
of Arkansas Division of Agriculture
Xie's Veterinary Acupuncture
The Book of Draft Horses
The Horse Owner's Survival Guide