Green Grass – love it or loathe it?
Green Grass – love it or loathe it? avatar

By | 18/02/2024

Green Grass

As we move into Spring and that green grass grows faster, some of us will be concerned about laminitis and weight gain in our horses but we can stay in control if we are aware of the dangers.

Grass is usually a staple component of a horse’s diet, providing essential nutrients such as carbohydrates, fibre, vitamins, and minerals. However, the sugar content of grass can fluctuate throughout the year, posing both opportunities and challenges for equine nutrition.

Early Summer Months

During the spring and early summer months, grass tends to have higher sugar content, particularly in the form of simple sugars like fructans.  The length of grass also has a role to play in the sugar content with shorter more stressed grass being higher. This surge in sugar levels is primarily driven by increased photosynthesis and growth stimulated by longer daylight hours and warmer temperatures. Horses grazing on lush spring pastures may consume higher amounts of sugars, which can potentially lead to health issues such as obesity, laminitis, and insulin resistance, especially in susceptible individuals.

Summer and Autumn

As the seasons progress into summer and autumn, the sugar content of grass typically decreases. This decline is influenced by factors such as higher temperatures, reduced daylight hours, and changes in plant physiology. While this decrease may be beneficial for horses prone to metabolic disorders, it also means that the nutritional quality of the grass diminishes, potentially necessitating supplementation to meet dietary requirements.

Managing Equine Diets Effectively

For us horse owners, understanding these seasonal variations in grass sugar content is crucial for managing equine diets effectively. Monitoring pasture quality, implementing rotational grazing, and providing alternative forage sources can help mitigate the risks associated with high-sugar grasses while ensuring horses receive adequate nutrition. Track systems have evolved for just this reason, where horses prone to weight gain or insulin dysregulation can thrive with a constant supply of low-calorie forage and movement.

By staying informed and proactive, horse owners can optimize their animals’ diets for the best general health and performance year-round.

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