As we excitedly get ready to welcome in a new season, the increase in daylight hours (more time to ride!), more turnout (with less mud) and the need for less layers can fill us with joy. Spring is one of the happiest times in the equine calendar as we prepare for the start of the outdoor show season and kick off the British Eventing calendar.
But in all of this excitement, we must not forget one simple thing: spring grass. Everything looks so much healthier and more positive when it starts to bloom. Hedgerows once again have colour, the grass is greener and daffodils shine brightly. As appealing as a paddock of fresh spring grass may look, we must be mindful of the sugars within it.
Nonstructural Carbohydrates & their link to Laminitis
Spring grass is high in nonstructural carbohydrates (NSCs). The NSCs in the grass fall into three categories; sugars (glucose, fructose, sucrose), starches, and fructans.
When a horse consumes the starch and sugars, his digestive tract converts them to simple sugars such as glucose. The blood stream then absorbs this glucose causing the body to release the hormone insulin. Insulin is responsible for the movement of glucose into the muscle and fat tissues. Fluctuations in blood glucose contributes to insulin resistance, which results in Equine Metabolic Syndrome and Laminitis.
Fructans alone can be detrimental to the horses’ health; they’re unable to be digested in the hind gut and therefore cause an increase in acid production and a drop in the pH of the horse’s digestive system. The result? An increase in blood insulin and therefore, laminitis.
Another area of concern with spring grass is colic. Horses tend to gorge when turned out on fresh grass. Their hind gut is unable to fully digest the sudden quantity of grass and the result is that the NSCs are then absorbed into the large intestine upsetting the fermentation process.
With spring grass, prevention really is better than cure. Researchers state that limiting horse’s intake of fresh grass is essential. Turnout for short periods only and try to strip graze the fields. A number of short turnout spells is much better in the day than one longer session.
The Forager from Haygain
When your horse is stabled, which it will be quite often to limit spring grass intake, ensuring he has plentiful access to forage is vital. You should avoid starving the horse in the stable as when they’re turned out, they’re even more likely to gorge. The forager slow-feeder from Haygain has been designed to mimic the horse’s natural grazing habits. It allows a constant, yet steady stream, of forage to be consumed, the best method for the equine.
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This article was written by/on behalf of Haygain.