Anyone with grazing animals understands that pasture management is important. But did you know that practicing smart grazing techniques can dramatically improve a horse’s health?
According to The Horse, a quality pasture and optimal grazing standards can make all the difference in a horse’s health, especially if it is suffering from a metabolic disorder or is overweight.
A quality diet begins in the field
To ensure a horse has a healthy diet, follow these helpful tips from The Horse:
Night grazing can be very useful. The best time to graze while gaining maximum benefit of forage without adding extra fat on your horse is between 3 a.m. until 10 a.m. At this time pasture plants have used up most of the accumulated sugar built up during the day.
Since there’s not many of us that want to set our alarm clocks to 2:45 a.m., what works for some horse owners is to turn horses out as late as possible in the evening (say, 10 p.m.), and bringing them in the next morning before heading off to work.
Another useful alternative to night grazing is turning horses out on pasture in the early morning (like 6 a.m.) and bringing them in by about 10 a.m. when plant production of sugar becomes high once again.
Graze horses during the active growing seasons (spring and early summer). Don’t be fooled by the late summer grass as brown grasses can be very high in sugars! Pastures are healthiest for horses (i.e., lowest in sugars) during the active growing season when plants are green and not stressed (i.e., not brown).
Implement a rotational grazing programto help avoid overgrazing. The greatest amount of sugar in a grass plant is in the bottom three inches, so rotate pastures before they are grazed below three inches. Shady pastures and cloudy days will result in lower carb and sugar levels in grasses. Rotating horses to shady pastures may be an option for high-risk individuals.
Easy keepers on pasture may need a grazing muzzle, a device that fastens on a horse’s head and only allows the horse to eat through a 2-inch hole at the bottom of the muzzle. An internet search will give you several options, plus tips on safety and how to use them.
Creating a quality pasture
Maintaining a quality pasture is vital to ensuring a healthy diet for a horse. The first step to establishing a quality pasture is to use forage seeds that are proven to go that extra mile. UF-Riata, a diploid bahiagrass seed for pastures, is an ideal choice for pastures in the southeast U.S. With improved leaf tissue, cold tolerance and greater forage production over a longer season when compared to other bahiagrass cultivars, these seeds result in a pasture that will continuously benefit landowners and horses.