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The good weather is coming back, so it is the opportunity for horses that have spent the winter in the stall to enjoy the pastures and their green grass again. However, as with any feed transition, the transition from life in the stable to life in the pasture must be gradual, otherwise your horse will suffer serious health problems.
When your horse lives in the stall or meadow in winter, his feed consists of hay and possibly pellets. Spring grass is very rich in nutrients. It contains more protein, sugar, vitamins and minerals than at any other time of the year. By putting it in the meadow, your horse will ingest a large quantity of grass as it is very palatable, while your horse’s digestive system is still accustomed to its winter feed. Overconsuming this grass exposes your horse to gassy colic, diarrhoea or even lameness.
In order to ensure a smooth transition to the diet, it is recommended that the horse is only gradually returned to the pasture. For example, you can put the horse out for one hour a day for a few days and then gradually increase the time spent in the pasture. The feed transition should take place over one or two months. Its ration must also be rebalanced accordingly, to take into account this new nutritional intake.
In order to avoid overconsumption of grass, you can take your horse out after he has received his hay ration. With a full stomach, your horse will be less inclined to fill up with grass just behind. Also always leave hay available in his pasture.
If you are unable to control the time your horse spends in the pasture, you can have him carry a fasting basket for part of the day to limit his grazing time.
It should also be noted that spring grass is often very rich in potassium and low in magnesium, which can lead to cramps or muscle pain. So make sure that salt is always available for your horse.
When your horse lives in the meadow, he can graze for 12 to 17 hours a day, which can be up to 3 kilos of grass per hour! Given the richness of the grass (particularly from April to June), this quantity can be more than enough to meet or even exceed your horse’s nutritional requirements, so you must remain vigilant about your horse’s diet so that it does not become overweight. As the season progresses, the grass will become depleted in nutrients, so it will be necessary to rebalance its ration if necessary. If your horse does regular work or competes, it would be preferable to maintain a balanced ration with fibre (hay in good quantity) and pellets to ensure that all your horse’s dietary needs are covered. If this is the case, it will be necessary to limit his access to the meadow or place him in paddocks with little grass. Royal Horse competition and leisure horse feeds, available for sale online or in specialist shops, contain all the nutrients your horse will need for regular or even intense exercise. Royal Horse, experts in the nutrition of horses of all types, also offers a mobile application that will allow you to choose the right feed for your horses and the right ration.
In the meadow, your horse is exposed to digestive parasites. Once installed in the horse’s digestive system, these parasites feed on the nutrients ingested by its host, causing a fairly rapid loss of condition. It is therefore essential to deworm your horse regularly, as well as its meadow companions if they have any.
Your horse will also be exposed to insects, which can greatly disturb it. Between bites and itching, insects can become a real source of stress for your horse. So make sure you avoid pastures near water points, or take him out in the pasture only at the end of the day. You can also equip it with fly masks and blankets if necessary.