The sun is shining again, the grass is starting to grow. It seems ideal weather to put the horses back on the pasture. But there are certainly risks involved.
The first spring grass is very rich in protein and sugar and still contains relatively little structure. In the spring, the sun produces a lot of sugar (fructan) in the grass during the day, which must be converted during the night into cell walls, among other things.
When the nights are cold, sometimes even night frost, nothing happens in the blades of grass. The fructans are then not consumed but accumulate in the grass and are still there the next morning.
When the sun starts to shine the next day, fructans are also produced. This accumulation of fructan ensures that many horses and ponies become laminitis every year.
Laminitis is very painful for the horses. In sunny weather with cold nights, one should therefore be very cautious about grazing.
The fructans in the grass are particularly high in the spring and autumn, when the day and night temperatures are further apart. The austere breeds (shetland, icelanders, welsh ponies, cobs etc) are particularly sensitive, but this condition can occur in any breed. These are often the varieties that are allowed to graze without restrictions.
In addition to laminitis, (gas) colic also often occurs as a result of the high fructans in the grass. The fructans disrupt the intestinal flora and cause extra gas formation in the intestine. This can have serious consequences.
- Build up the grazing time very slowly and apply strip grazing.
- Make sure that the horses always have access to structured roughage, both before and during grazing. The fructan content in the grass varies per day (part). Therefore keep a close eye on the weather conditions. Cold nights and a lot of sun during the day give a high fructan content. The fructan content is often lower when it is cloudy.
- A fructan table is available on the internet, stating the risk on a daily basis
- When the fructan content is high, be very cautious about grazing.