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Answer Exchange

  • Q:

    How quickly should I reintroduce grass to a horse that was pulled off pasture in the spring due to fructan levels?

  • A:

    Several factors should be considered before returning an insulin-sensitive horse to grass pasture. Although all horses can be subject to digestive upsets from the highly fermentable carbohydrates in lush pasture, horses with insulin sensitivity (or metabolic problems) are at greater risk.

    Identifying the best times for grazing—that is, when the fructans are at their lowest—is a good place to start when reintroducing pasture. The time of greatest risk is during seasons of warm days and cool nights when fructan levels in the grass are at their peak. As the weather changes to warm days and warm nights, it is best to allow grazing in the morning when the plants have had the night hours to use up sugars from the day before.

    Further, it is useful to offer some hay to the horse prior to grazing to help reduce the amount consumed. Horses at serious risk of metabolic problems should be introduced to grass in 15-minute intervals over the course of several weeks. Once 4-5 hours of consecutive grazing is reached, regular grazing hours can resume. Consider using a grazing muzzle to limit consumption, which may allow for a longer time on pasture.

    Use of a product such as EquiShure, a time-released hindgut buffer, is helpful in preventing metabolic problems associated with overconsumption of sugar-rich grasses.

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