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For the health of your horse

Pleun Broeren
18 april 2024 Reading time 4 minutes

Tips for a healthy diet during grazing

There is nothing better than grazing horses in a green pasture. But it does require the necessary adjustments from you as the caretaker to guide your horse(s) in a healthy way during the transition from the stable to pasture season.  

How long is a horse allowed to graze?

For your horse's health and well-being, it is important that he is outside a lot and can move freely, preferably not alone but with other horses. Depending on your pasture, an average of 7 hours of grazing per day is enough for most horses to absorb enough nutrients. Using fencing, you can make sure that your horse has a smaller/poorer area of grass available to him to avoid taking in too much energy and sugar.  

Health risks of the field season

In the spring when the grass is fresh, several health risks lurk. In addition to the risk of being overweight or even obese, the (sudden) intake of lots of fresh grass can cause colic and diarrhea. In addition, the sugar levels in the grass can be very high, especially on cold nights! After a night with temperatures of 5 °C or below - and especially with night frost - the sugar content in the grass is even higher. Sometimes even so high that it can lead to acute laminitis. It is better to put your horse outside a little later in the day when the fructan content has dropped a bit again. To avoid these health risks as much as possible, it is important that you adjust the (feed) management as soon as your horse goes out to pasture in the spring.

Tips for a healthy spring ration when grazing

1. Build up grazing slowly

Horses by nature have a very sensitive digestive system. Changes in the feed ration should therefore always be made gradually, allowing the intestinal flora to adapt to the new situation. This also applies to grazing. For example, start with half an hour or an hour and expand this gradually. For healthy horses, the advice is to build up by +20% every day. If you start with an hour of pasture, extend this by 10-15 minutes every day for the first few weeks. In horses that are known to be sensitive to sugar or have had laminitis in the past, it is best to be extra careful and keep to +10% per day. In horses with laminitis sensitivity, it is wise not to graze them for more than two hours a day.

2. Out to pasture with a full stomach

All that fresh grass is of course very tempting. To prevent your horse from gorging itself completely on the grass, it may help to provide a full stomach beforehand. Give your horse an extra portion of (low-sugar) hay or choose a soaked roughage meal of desugared beet pulp, such as Pavo SpeediBeet or natural grass chunks, such as Pavo FibreNuggets.

3. Reduce calories

Spring grass is not only very rich in particular energy, but also contains more protein and (unfortunately) sugar than in the autumn. In most cases, even more energy than horses consume, so the excess energy is stored as fat reserves. In other words, your horse gets fatter. Whereas in the autumn and winter months you may have had to feed your horse extra to maintain a good weight, now the opposite is true. Your horse now needs less energy and protein. Depending on your horse and its level of exercise/training, you can do several things to reduce calories:

  • For athletes: are you currently feeding a concentrate to give your horse extra energy? You may be able to replace this with a concentrate with a lower energy level. Pavo has divided its concentrate into three energy levels: low, medium and high. Do the Energy level test to find out which products suit you and your horse best.
  • For recreation & light sport: does your horse need little extra energy and do you especially want to provide him with all the daily vitamins and minerals? Then switch to a balancer, such as Pavo Vital (pellets) or Pavo DailyFit (bars). The advantage of a balancer is that you only feed vitamins, minerals and trace elements, without extra energy or calories. In addition, you only need to feed very little of it: 100 grams of Pavo Vital per day, for example, is already sufficient.

    Tip: Do you feed a balancer, but would still like to give your horse a 'big meal'? The roughage mix Pavo DailyPlus is ideal for mixing with Pavo Vital, for example. This way you only add extra structure and fibre to your balancer, so your horse can still enjoy his meal for a nice long time. 
  • For easy keepers and sensitive horses: a balancer is always suitable for frugal breeds or horses that are sensitive to sugar or grains. But in addition, there is such a thing as concentrated concentrate feed. This is in between a pure vitamin/mineral balancer and regular concentrate. Characteristics of this type of product are that it is low in energy, sugar and starch and, on the contrary, has an extra high concentration of vitamins, minerals and trace elements. In this way, you need to feed very little of it compared to ordinary concentrates (on average 1 kilo for a horse and 0.5 kilo for a pony).

    Pavo Care4Life is an example of this. This healthy, natural herb mix contains 11 different types of herbs. It is completely molasses-, oat- and grain-free (also no grain by-products) and is ideal for horses that have poor sugar tolerance or a predisposition to getting fat quickly. In addition, Pavo EasyMix is the perfect concentrated muesli especially for frugal breeds of horses and ponies, such as Icelanders and Fjords. These horses often need little concentrate feed and have a tendency to get fat quickly - especially during the grazing season!

It is important to remember to always supplement your horse with at least one balancer - even during the grazing season. After all, grass and hay alone do not contain enough vitamins and minerals to keep your horse healthy.

4. Gradual transition

When switching to a different type of feed, it is very important that you don't do this overnight. Take a period of 10 days to let your horse get used to the new feed. You do this by mixing both feeds, giving a little more of the new feed and less of the old feed each time.

5. Some extras to support digestion

Unlike hay, fresh grass is much "wetter" and consists of as much as 85% water. As you can imagine, wet feed contains little fibre and passes through the intestines more quickly. In itself fine if your horse suffers from dry manure or constipation, but less pleasant for all other horses who may actually get diarrhea or colic from (suddenly) lots of fresh grass. To give extra support to your horse's sensitive digestion during this period, you can temporarily feed Pavo GutHealth. Pavo GutHealth is a supplement that has been specially developed for a stable intestinal function and helps to bring the disturbed intestinal bacteria back into balance during the sudden change of ration.


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Horse pasture +Season change +Sugar +