Most horse owners know that any sudden change in a horse’s diet can cause serious problems, but it’s easy to forget that your horse’s pasture can also change rapidly. Spring grass growth puts your horse at risk of debilitating conditions, like colic and laminitis.
Grasses contain non-structural carbohydrates (NSC’s), including sugars, starches and fructans, that support grass growth. During Summer, NSC levels are relatively low but, come Spring, NSC’s can accumulate to dangerously high levels and correct management is essential.
Just like a change in feed, a dramatic change in pasture can result in digestive upset as the good bacteria found in your horse’s digestive tract are unaccustomed to the high levels of NSC found in cool-seasons grasses during Spring.
While the risks of Spring grass growth are highest to horses and ponies prone to grass-induced laminitis, or those with insulin resistance, obesity or cushing’s disease, any horse is at risk of developing colic or laminitis if allowed to over-consume lush Spring pasture.
After a season of sparse Winter pasture, the sweet green grass brought on by Spring rain can be very tempting to your horse. However, eating too much too quickly can lead to serious abdominal pain, known as grass colic.
A type of spasmodic colic, grass colic is caused by gas build-up in the digestive tract. As with any type of colic, prevention is better than cure. When making any changes to your horse’s feed, including pasture, make changes gradually over a period of days to weeks.
Similarly, when your horse consumes Spring grass following Winter, the good bacteria found in your horse’s digestive tract die and harmful pathogens are released into the bloodstream, which is a known cause of laminitis.
Laminitis, or founder, causes foot pain and lameness. Restricting your horse’s access to pasture, particularly if they’re considered high risk, is the only way to prevent the development of this disease, which can be life-threatening in some cases.
Is your horse showing signs of colic or laminitis? Call us today on (07) 5411 4554 to discuss correct management with a qualified veterinarian. For after hours emergency assistance, call 1300 641 007.