Have I mentioned how much I love this time of year? Although the weather has been a bit dreary, I took full advantage of one the few nice days we’ve had and went apple picking with my good friend Magic. The apple orchard is one of my favorite places to be; red delicious snacks above me and lush green grass below! Speaking of grass, have you noticed how quickly it’s been growing lately? All the precipitation and cooler weather provide the perfect conditions for rapid pasture growth. But as much as I love grass, I know that you can have too much of a good thing.
You may be surprised to hear that grasses contain large amounts of…sugar! It’s no wonder why horses love it so much! But just like humans, an excess of sugar could cause problems for horses. Grass accumulates sugar and starch throughout the day and uses it for growth overnight, unless there is a freeze.
Consuming high sugar grass can cause a metabolic disorder called laminitis or founder in some horses, especially old guys like me, and also “easy keepers”; the chubby ponies and horses that get fat just thinking about grass. Although it is not necessarily a bad thing, you should be careful not to use this term with a mare….I once told Christi she was an “easy keeper” and nearly got kicked in the noggin!
If a horse is an easy keeper or has had laminitis before, limiting sugar intake by grazing it early in the morning before the grasses accumulate sugar (provided there was no overnight freeze) or by using a grazing muzzle throughout the day can hinder the development of metabolic disease. This is especially important in the spring and fall, when sugar content is at its greatest. My friends at the Equine Science Center are experts on this type of stuff! For more information on metabolic disease, check out their Fact Sheet – Metabolic Problems in the Horse: Sorting out the Diagnosis.
Well I’m off to lunch…all this talking about grass and sugar is making me hungry!
Until next time friends,