Grazing in Spring

After the long winter in the stable, fresh pasture grass is unfamiliar to horses and ponies. They should get used to the change in food slowly so that they do not get sick.

Correct Grazing of Horses or Ponies

When the temperatures rise slowly in spring and the hours of sunshine increase, horse owners can hardly wait to bring their horses or ponies out to pasture. The horses themselves are also pushed outside into nature. But when you have spent the winter in the stables, there are a few things to consider so that the first grazes in particular are not problematic for the horse and keeper. In addition to intact pasture fences, you should be careful with the first green of the year, which is not only unfamiliar to ungulates but can also cause serious illnesses such as diarrhea, colic, or dangerous laminitis. Here you can find out how to best prepare your horse or pony for spring grazing.

The Ideal Time for the First Grazing

Even if the temperatures are mild enough during the day, the pasture grass still needs some time to serve as a forage crop at the beginning of spring. Even in March, the nights are often very cool or even frosty, which means that the gas remains moist for a long time during the day. Short grass that does not yet show any noticeable growth still has a very high proportion of fructans. These are mainly carbohydrates, which have a negative effect on the horse’s metabolism. The ideal time for the first grazing cannot be fixed on a date. It depends on the weather, the growth of the grass, and the level of fertilizer. Experts, therefore, recommend waiting until the grass has reached a height of around 20 centimeters.

During the waiting period, you can walk down the fence and check whether all fence posts are straight, the gate is intact and whether wooden planks or wires are still stuck. A broken electric fence should be repaired to prevent your horses or ponies from injuring themselves or running away. Also, keep in mind that your pet will need fresh water even if they eat lush grass. You can also take care of clean and intact water troughs for the pasture.

Why are Fructans So Harmful to the Organism?

Most horses are fed predominantly with hay and concentrated feed over the winter. Your entire organism has optimally adapted to this food over the months. If you suddenly add too much fresh green, it messes up your digestive system. This is comparable to not having a cream cake for months. If we suddenly eat three pieces of cake at once, stomach pain and diarrhea are usually the results. A full-grown warm-blooded animal weighing around 600 kilograms is able to eat up to 4 kilograms of grass in just an hour. If he is not used to this high-energy diet, he can become very sick.

This is usually due to the fructans contained in young grass, in particular. These are sugar components that spread rapidly in the large intestine. Lactic acid is formed to a greater extent, which kills the intestinal bacteria. This creates toxins that get into the bloodstream and cause dangerous colic or even laminitis (inflammation of the claw skin). In particular, the so-called robust horse breeds, such as Haflinger, Fjord horse, or Icelander, are among the particularly sensitive representatives.

Prepare the Horse or Pony for Grazing

The temperatures should have risen so far that horses or ponies can safely go outside without a blanket, even if they are clipped in the saddle area, for example. It is important, however, that they are healthy. Fresh grass is an additional burden for horses whose immune system is compromised. So that your horse does not rush to the pasture grass because it is hungry, it is advisable to feed it with a large portion of hay beforehand. However, it should only receive additional concentrated feed after it has gone pasture. The more time pony or horse spends in the pasture and eats grass, the further the concentrate can be reduced.

The addition of herbal mixtures is also good preparation for grazing. Special herbal mixtures for the start of the grazing season are available from specialist retailers. They usually consist of detoxified natural substances such as dandelion, peppermint, nettle herb, thistle seeds, caraway, or artichoke. Regular addition allows the intestinal flora to adapt even better to the unfamiliar green fodder. The herbs will also help your horse when grass growth slows down in autumn and is again very high in fructan.

The Best Practice for Grazing

No matter how tempting the sun’s rays are, in the beginningless is simply more. So that your horse or pony is not exposed to unnecessary risk, you should slowly get it used to graze. Ideally, the grass is already dried from dew or night frost, which is usually the case in the early afternoon. Now you can leave your horse out in the pasture for about 15 minutes – no longer. If she does not come to you alone when you call out, it is advisable to hold her on the lunge.

This procedure is repeated the next day. From the third day, you can slowly increase the length of stay by 15 minutes so that the horse is allowed to go out into the pasture for an hour after about 10 days. From about the second week you can also add the morning, again in 15-minute steps. The entire settling-in period should take around four to six weeks. With the Robustassen you can even extend this time by two weeks.

Due to the slow grazing, the intestinal flora of the horse or pony can gradually adapt to the news feed. Nevertheless, slight diarrhea can occur in the beginning. So that this does not intensify, you can skip a day of grazing in between so that the intestinal flora calms down again.

How Does Laminitis Express Itself After Excessive Consumption of Unfamiliar Greens?

The death of the important intestinal bacteria triggers circulatory disorders in horses and ponies, which particularly affect the fine blood vessels in the hooves. As a result, an inflammation of the claw’s dermis can develop, in which the hoof capsule becomes detached. Laminitis manifests itself as warmed hooves and a slightly swollen coronet. In addition, the gait of a sick animal becomes significantly stiff and awkward. If laminitis is suspected, the veterinarian should be contacted immediately. You should also keep in mind that a horse or pony that has suffered from laminitis will still tend to do so later and therefore graze it particularly carefully and slowly.


Horses or ponies that spend the winter in the stable and not in the pasture should be grazed slowly and not abruptly in the spring. Your sensitive intestinal flora must slowly adjust to the unfamiliar green fodder. With the right preparation, you can avoid diarrhea, colic, or laminitis in your horse so that spring is a pleasure for both of you.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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