Horses spend between 16 to 18 hours grazing; whether chomping on hay or nibbling on grass your horse will consume on average 2.5% of its own body a day, no mean feat when you consider the average horse is about half a ton! But have you ever stopped to wonder what your horse is actually eating? Grass roots draw up nutrients from the soil to grow strong stalks and leaves, but just because you grass is lush and green doesn’t necessarily mean it’s providing your horse with the right balance of minerals. If the pasture is deficient or heavy in one or other mineral then the grass will reflect that imbalance. While horses can tolerate a wide range of mineral imbalances with no obvious outward signs many of the nagging horse issues for granted as ‘usual’ in horses such as sun-bleaching, tendon/ligament/joint stiffness, immune system imbalances, muscle and nerve problems, poor fertility, bone problems, and hoof issues can all have a nutritional component.
Before you rush off to the feed merchant and reach for the pretty label on the shelf its worthwhile investing in a bit of detective work to find out what you’re up against. ForagePlus offers an analysis service of both your pasture and hay/haylage. This is a small investment which will save you in the long run, benefit your pasture and most importantly your horse. A field analysis offers you a road map to your horse’s basic diet and allows you to adjust your feed plan accordingly. If you need a little help digesting all this data they also offer a great personalised feed plan to help you keep your horse in top form.
Kathy Watts has a wealth of information on her site SaferGrass on pasture and nutritional management of horses for both the prevention and treatment of laminitis, carbohydrate intolerance, insulin resistance, equine metabolic syndrome, cushing’s and cushingoid in horses as well as practical guides to help horse owners ensure they do what can to prevent their development.