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- Go slow and gradual
- Start with a period of 15 to 20 minutes of grazing
- Gradually increase until ideal turnout time is reached
- Complete transition could take up to a month.
- Monitor horses for signs of digestive upset.
- For horses with metabolic issues transitions should be made later in the growing cycle onto mature grasses.
After a long winter on hay, horses are usually ready to get out on green grass, but there are some things we need to recommend for a successful transition to pasture. Gradually easing horses onto grass is the best way to go, and new spring grass is not always what’t best. So what is different about spring grass? As the grass in pastures emerges from its winter dormant state, the first few blades have a critical job of transforming sunlight into food. This process (photosynthesis) starts the growth of the plant for the rest of the season.
This food is in the form of plant sugar (fructans) and is essential for the plant to grow into a productive pasture contributor for the remainder of the season. When overnight temperatures are cool (around 40 degrees F) the stored energy created during the day is used to grow additional leaves and roots. Extra food not utilized overnight is stored in the plant tissues. If overnight temperatures drop below 40 degrees F, the plant will not invest in growth and the sugars will remain in the leaves. This high sugar content can cause problems for some horses. The ideal time to start acclimating horses to fresh spring grass is when overnight temperatures remain above 40 degrees F, because the level of fructans in the grass is likely to be low.