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Transitioning Horses from Winter Feed to Spring Feed


horse grazing 2It’s taken a few months, but it looks like we’re finally starting to move out of the long, long winter and into something a bit friendlier, weather-wise. Your horses are probably quite happy to have a chance to stretch their legs in the warm sun rather than the cold snow, and most likely they’re excited to get a chance to eat some rich, spring grass. But hold on a minute! Switching from winter feed to spring feed isn’t a perfectly simple transition. The sudden change can cause a horse to feel rather ill, so here’s what you should know what they swap one for the other.

You’re probably thinking this sounds very strange, what with the fact that horses are basically just eating grass either way, but the truth is, hay eaten during the winter and grass grown in the spring are actually two different types of food altogether. Spring grass is typically loaded with carbohydrates, whereas winter hay doesn’t have amount. The sudden shift to a lot of carbs from a little can indeed upset a horse’s stomach, both by bloating them up fairly quickly and also by messing with their stomach’s dietary bacteria.

The best way to combat this is to always have the option of fresh grass available as much as possible, which usually means that you’ll want more than one pasture for your horses. This will allow one pasture to regrow itself while the other is being grazed on throughout the season. Preferably, your horse will get a chance to graze even during the colder months, at least a little bit, allowing them to keep their diet consistent to a certain degree throughout the year.

More realistically though, you’ll probably find yourself looking to alternative ways of getting some fresh feed to your horse, such as opting to purchase plants that don’t require any extra care. Think of it as buying your horse a salad, if you will. The downside here is that while supplementing their diet is great this way, it makes it rather expensive and impractical to make this the core of their diet.

It’s a good idea both going into spring and coming out of it to transition your horse slowly between the two by ramping up hay intake near the end of the warm months and increasing the amount of fresh greens as the heat dies down. Doing so will let your horse’s stomach adjust naturally and give them the proper nutrition that need normally. Of course, it never hurts to supplement their diet no matter what, though talk to your veterinarian about the best diet for your particular horse.

Maintaining a horse can be tricky enough without season change, but it doesn’t have to be an unexpected development. Doing some simple preventative steps can mean the difference between a happy horse and one with an upset digestive system. Why would you prefer your horse be?


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