I had a question in response to my last blog post about laminitis. It occurred to me that grazing problems are so common, I should make the answer easier to find. I’ve added more to it so it covers more than just Barbra’s specific situation (just in case you read my response in the comments – you might find a bit more here)
The question seems to be what to do when your grass isn’t as suitable as you’d like.
I’ve been there myself. Some friends and I moved to a great new yard, between us we took 6 horses there. All 6 horses had enjoyed 24/7 turn out and complete soundness before we arrived (one of them I’d even ridden though a quarry completely barefoot) within days of getting to the new yard we had problems.
Highly restricted grazing gave some relief but they still weren’t as comfortable as they should have been when being led in hand over a gravel track. Within 2 days of moving to another new yard all 6 horses were completely sound over gravel tracks and turned out 24/7.
Not everyone has the option of moving yards, though that is the most obvious way of dealing with the problem. (I think that’s called a ‘shoot the dog’ method)
In terms of soil and laminitis, richer soil will get you richer grass which is more likely to cause inflammation problems. I see laminitis as an accumulative effect of everything going on in the horse. Rich grass does seem to come up trumps as far as culprits go though.
There’s a saying in fitness that you can’t out train a poor diet. In other words you can spend 5 hours a day in the gym, but if your diet is pizza and doughnuts and lots of them, you’re still going to have a fat problem rather than a 6 pack.
The same applies to a horses diet (though granted, I’ve never seen a 6 pack on a horse no matter what they eat or how long they spend in the gym). If they’re eating grass that is too rich, and that grass makes up the bulk of their diet, then you’re going to have trouble.
One option is to restrict the grazing, but sugar is addictive, and the disruption it can cause to gut bacteria can make you desperate for it (that’s in both horses and humans). You can find that your horse stuffs so much grass in, in the few hours of grazing they get that it causes other issues, not to mention the horses willing to risk life and limb to tear down a fence to get more and then refuse to be caught.
There’s a few things I’ve found that can help. First off, top of the list, is this little gemP45 (I buy the 5lt bottles when I’m feeding it). It helps horses manage grass that is too rich. Many of my clients have found that feeding it means they don’t have to work nearly so hard at various grazing restriction techniques.
Next up – how hungry is your horse? The brain tells us to eat when it needs nourishment. It doesn’t tell us what to eat (at least I don’t think I’ve developed an extreme chocolate deficiency this Christmas). If the body wants magnesium, or calcium or protein or whatever, the brain just tells us to eat, it doesn’t tell us what to eat. Nom!
This can cause a problem if the bulk of the diet is deficient in something. The brain keeps telling the horse to eat, so the horse eats more and more of what’s available – the grass – the rich grass that’s full of stuff he doesn’t need but deficient in something the body is crying out for.
It doesn’t matter what it’s high in or low in, the result is way too much of something and still not enough of something else. This results in toxicity in whatever is high and deficiency in what is missing, which causes inflammation and still a strong, primal drive to eat more. (this is one of the main reasons people who diet, and eat diet food are hungry all the time – it doesn’t have what their body needs in it)
Most commonly, you’ll find you’re too high in sugar and protein and too low in trace minerals, the problem is, when you’re too high in sugar and protein the body responds with inflammation. The thing it needs to remove the inflammation, is the trace minerals… D’oh!
So what does this mean? If we have well balanced nutrition, then the messages to ‘go eat’ will be reduced. So a good all round, balanced supplement can really help reduce the drive to eat, which in turn will reduce the amount your horse is eating, not to mention provide the trace minerals necessary to help the body deal with the toxicity from whatever it’s getting too much of.
If you’re restricting grazing by only turning out for part of the day then giving food (feed/hay whatever works) before they go out, so they’re not going out hungry can help a lot.
To be honest it can depend a lot on the personality of the horse, some horses live by their stomach, others aren’t that fussed. There’s lots of ways to do things, it’s finding what suits you and your horses, for your current environment that’s important.
Do you have any tips for helping people manage horses on unsuitable grazing? Tell us in the comments below.
P.S. Bit of a tangent, but it’s New Year, so why not hey…
Do you doubt the effect sugar has on how you feel about food? On how toxins themselves create that need to eat, and in fact make you crave more toxins? The best way to understand it is to try it for yourself. Cut out toxin filled food and sugar for a week or so (30 days would be better). It is January after all. We spend so much time looking after our horses health – what about you?
Sounds simple to say, not quite so easy to do.
If you haven’t tried it before, you might be surprised at how your attitude to food and eating changes as you reduce the toxins in your body and replenish the nutrients.
The Healthy Horse: Feeding and Nutrition
We Are What We Eat
It's easy to see why diet is so important. The body is always regenerating, it needs good nutrition to be able to build healthy cells. Nutrition is such a confusing subject though!
There's so much advice, and so many different choices, how are you ever supposed to figure out what's right for your horse?