How to manage the season of significant changes.
Spring grass FACTS
- Likely higher levels of carbohydrates (sugars and starches), especially in pasture which is overgrazed and stressed.
- Increased calorie content leading to weight gain or over-excitability.
- Decreased levels of magnesium – causing possible anxiety and poor focus.
- LOW in fibre – an essential provision for daily digestive and equine health.
- Likelihood of nutrient deficiency in the diet if not fed a balancer or balanced diet.
Watch your horses’ weight. We are all used to seeing and hearing that horses come in from their daily turnout looking tired and full. It’s likely to find that they have eaten well in the day and seem less interested in their evening feed. Maybe you notice that your horse is resting more in the field, possibly on a tummy full of grass!
Head to the bottom of this blog to read about the importance of working out the ACTUAL GRAMS of sugar and starch fed. It's not as tricky as you might think, and is worth every second of your time.
Digestive upset is common at this time of year due to the lower fibre levels spring grass provides therefore the continuation of feeding good quality fibre in the diet is important. When supported by ingredients such as probiotics and nucleotides this aids fibre digestion. You may see or feel your horse’s digestive upset as sensitivity when ridden (which can be caused by higher energy levels in the grass AND/OR nutrient deficiency) or as digestive upset such as diarrhoea.
The regular use of a weight tape (weekly ideally), provides an approximate weight, but more importantly allows you to record and track unwanted weight gain, which may happen slowly and go largely unnoticed.
A golden rule of feeding. Make changes gradually, is harder to accomplish in the spring and sometimes forgotten when thinking about grazing as opposed to bucket feed.
Why do we have to make changes to the diet gradually? The horse’s gut contains a delicate balance of microorganisms which aid digestion, they populate based on the diet of your horse, therefore changes to the diet need to allow for changes in the microbe population to occur, this takes time.
How can a feed balancer help? Feeding a probiotic (included in ALL Blue Chip balancers) helps to support the health of the digestive system.
For horse’s particularly prone to suffer during the spring (such as those prone to Laminitis) feed further supporting prebiotics, and digestive clays both of which are included in our Lami Light Feed Balancer formulation.
For those not prone to Lamintis a low calorie option is suitable, our Low Calorie Feed Balancer is formulated with both cinnamon which helps to maintain blood sugar levels and improve glucose tolerance, PLUS L-Carnitine which can fast-track fatty acids into the muscle cells to utilise.
- The “good bacteria” in the hindgut will die off if dietary changes happen too quickly.
- Without “good bacteria” the risk level of both laminitis and colic are increased.
Blue Chip Lami Light contains a quadruple action digestive supplement for healthy digestion with both prebiotics and probiotics, plus sepiolite clay and nucleotides.
TIPS for managing you horse in spring
- If you are concerned about high levels of starch and sugar in your horses’ diet, turnout overnight when the levels are lower, especially after 5pm as levels can peak late afternoon.
- Be aware, if you horse is on restricted turnout, they may still consume high levels of grass to counteract for the fact they know their time is limited. Limiting time out can become a mad dash to take on board as much grass as possible!
- For those most prone to Laminitis, completely removing turnout at this time of year may be the only option, however fibre must continue to form the base of their diet, choosing a low sugar option or soaking to further reduce sugar content.
- Makes turnout changes gradually to allow for microbial changes to occur maintaining healthy digestion.
- Reduce the starch content in your horses’ diet to reduce spooky, anxious and nervous behaviour.
- If your horse is gaining weight, you may have reduced the bucket feed ration which could mean your horse is no longer receiving the full daily recommended feeding rate for their continued provision of vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
- Feed a balancer or balanced diet containing magnesium for improved behaviour when levels are lower in new spring grass.
- Consider the restriction of grazing through the use of a grazing muzzle, strip grazing or a track system.
Blue Chip charity partner Mane Chance sanctuary provide their horses with a track system for their weight loss programme and improved health.
- Energy and calories are the same thing, if your horse is feeling very energetic, look to reduce the calories in their diet, feeding a balancer is an easy way to achieve this without compromising on daily nutritional support.
- Include probiotics to aid healthy digestion.
- For those prone to laminitis feed prebiotics for additional support.
- Fibre MUST continue to form the base of your horse’s diet.
- Provide additional fibre when new spring grass is growing to allow for microorganisms to adapt gradually and reduce the onset of digestive upset.
Enjoy the spring, knowing you have the tools to manage your horse in the correct way.
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