Feeding Your Horse In the Spring

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Feeding a horse in the spring presents a unique set of challenges; the changing weather alters the quality of grass, and your horse will face different nutritional needs. Here are some ways to keep your horse healthy and well fed during the spring.

Limit Pasture

The abundance of rain in the spring, partnered with the increased grass growth, makes pasture lush and tempting for horses. The grass that is growing contains higher levels of sugar than it does in the summer, which, of course, horses love to eat. This can result in serious issues such as founder, since horses can easily overfeed on the sweet grass. Overgrazing can also lead to significant weight gain.

Horses, and especially ponies, can feed safely on pastures during the spring as long as they are introduced gradually and their time on the pastures is limited. Start your horse on spring pasture for just half an hour daily, and gradually increase that time so that he can stay on pasture for a few hours a day. Using grazing muzzles can also help to limit the amount that your horse feeds on lush pastures.

Supplement With Hay

When feeding a horse, hay or another source of forage should always make up the majority of its diet. Horses are natural grazers, meaning that their bodies are built to continuously process forage throughout the entire day. While your horse’s time on lush pasture may have to be limited, supplement that with hay.

Try your best to make hay available to your horse all throughout the day and night in a free-access situation. Providing free-access hay feeds your horse in a more natural manner than providing it only in two or three larger meals per day. Free-choice hay can help to reduce the chance of colic, and can be an excellent method to keep weight on “hard keepers,” horses who struggle to maintain an adequate weight. Of course, free-choice hay doesn’t work for all horses; some ponies and those horses who naturally put on weight easily may need their hay access limited.

Choose The Right Grain

Grain is also an important horse feed; fortified grains help to give your horse any nutrients that he is lacking through hay and pasture. Grain also provides your horse with energy, and can help to maintain his weight as his exercise regimen increases.

The specific type and amount of grain that you need to feed your horse will depend entirely on the horse’s workload and exercise intensity. Some horses naturally require more grain than others, and some horses do better on different types or combinations of grain. As you ride your horse more heavily, you may need to gradually increase the amount of grain that you are feeding him – but remember to also gradually decrease his feed if his exercise routine decreases as well. Always make any feed changes slowly to lessen the risk of colic.

Studying the nutritional labels on bags of grain can give you a good understanding of where to start in selecting a feed for your horse. Consult with an equine nutritionist if you are unsure of your horse’s specific nutritional needs, and run any feed changes by your veterinarian to see if he or she has any input or suggestions for the best method of feeding your horse.

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