To a horse, the sprouting pastures of early spring must look like an inviting all-you-can-eat buffet. But just like buffets (and most things in life), too much of a good thing can have consequences.
Spring is a season of rejuvenation for horses, but for those dealing with or at risk of metabolic disorders, it can be a season of ruination without proper vigilance. Spring pastures are especially high in carbohydrates, which can trigger pasture laminitis if over-consumed.
Horses at the highest risk of founder include seniors, overweight/easy keepers, and breeds prone to insulin resistance, like ponies, Morgans, Arabians and some Warmbloods.
Here are some tips for avoiding pasture pitfalls, courtesy of the AAEP:
Keep your easy keepers and ponies off lush, fast-growing pastures until the grass has slowed in growth and produced seed heads.
Graze your horses on pastures containing a high percentage of legumes, such as alfalfa or clover, as they do not contain fructan.
Avoid grazing horses on pastures that have been grazed very short during the winter.
Keep cresty-necked, overweight horses in the stall or paddock until the pasture’s rate of growth has slowed, then introduce them to the pasture slowly.
Allow the horse to fill up on hay before turning out on grass for a few hours.
Muzzling during turnout is another popular method that restricts intake while allowing the horse much-needed exercise. The only trick here is keeping the muzzle on the horse (looking at you, "Artie").
Now's the time to consider nutritional support. Metabarol® is scientifically proven to normalize insulin levels in horses as well aid in reducing inflammation. Additionally, the high-in-carbohydrates, low-in-fiber nature of new grass can do a number on the hind gut. A good probiotic supplement with psyllium husk can help keep the digestive system in good operation while lessening the risk of colic.
Of course, knowing exactly what you’re dealing with will help you formulate a plan of action. Now is the time to have your pasture analyzed by a local extension office, and your horse’s blood tested by your veterinarian.
$50 rebate for blood testing | Learn More
Metabarol® | Scientifically Proven Metabolic Support
"I have seen dramatic declines in insulin and glucose levels, along with improved overall comfort of the horse, when Metabarol is administered."
-Dr. Vern Dryden, DVM, CJF
Bur Oak Veterinary and Podiatry Services
"Food is not love to a horse prone to EMS. Many breeds have a predisposition to insulin resistance or equine metabolic syndrome. Metabarol is quite useful in managing these horses."
-Dr. Peter Morresey, BVSc, MVM, MACVS, ACVIM, CVM
Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital