Early summer the grass is growing and the sun is shining, however, we do need to check that our horses and ponies condition doesn’t become unmanageable. As both equines and humans start to feel the benefits of a bit more sun on their backs it can be very easy to overindulge and suddenly those extra pounds have crept on. If you are worried about excess condition on your horse or pony already the following ways of limiting grass intake are listed in order of effectiveness: -
Top Tip #1 - Graze poor quality pasture/hill land.
With less-productive grass species to eat and a larger area to graze, burning off calories. 10/10.
Top Tip #2 Mix grazing with sheep.
This method limits the amount of available grass and is good for controlling worms too! 9/10.
Top Tip #3 Limit the area to be grazed with electric fencing.
Only 8/10 because it reduces the area for exercise, but this is the most common solution.
Top Tip #4 Limit the time out at grass e.g. three hours turnout during the day.
This system can be successful despite the reduction in exercise, if the equine will eat sufficient late-cut hay (soaked for several hours if necessary) to go out feeling full rather than hungry. It does not work brilliantly if the equine is turned out overnight because the time out can be too long but it may be the only solution when flies are an issue. Research has also shown that restricting the time allowed for turnout, increases the amount of grass consumed per hour significantly. 7/10.
Top Tip #5 Use a grazing muzzle.
The design of muzzles is continually improving and if your equine will accept wearing one it allows him to exercise and socialise with his field companions whilst limiting his grass intake. The big drawback in my opinion is that ideally they should only be used under supervision. 6/10.
Top Tip #6 Use a ‘sacrifice’ paddock.
Although scientists have now shown that when grass is grazed very short it is ‘stressed’ and contains a high percentage of fructans, using a sacrifice paddock is preferable to turning out on good grazing because it is the total quantity of grass sugars that can be eaten that matters and a sacrifice paddock is often the lesser of two evils. If you can hang a net of soaked hay high enough in the paddock to be safe it will improve this solution. 5/10.
Top Tip #7 Stand inside for most of the time so that he cannot graze.
This is ineffective in my experience; probably because the equine does not exercise and therefore does not burn many calories off inside. When this approach is teamed with leaving the pony with only a small amount of hay it is potentially dangerous because reducing fibre intake excessively can trigger laminitis. Finally it does not give the pony a natural lifestyle. 3/10.
Article Source:Nicola Tyler TopSpec Nutrition Director.
Back to Articles