Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Too Much of a Good Thing!

All day grass turnout in small herds is great for horses - for their mental and physical health.  They get to do what horses were made to do - graze in a social group.  Unless . . . you have too much grass!  I know those of you without access for your horses to grass pastures, or who live in climates where grass is scanty, may find this hard to believe, but we have too much grass - in fact way too much grass.

We've had cool and very wet weather for several months now, and the grass is sure liking it.  We always have good grazing - we actively manage the pastures for quality, using techniques like rotational grazing - but this year the weather has resulted in overly lush pastures.  In places, the grass is waist high and still growing.  Normally, we would do mowing to help manage the growth, but this year conditions have been so consistently wet that mowing hasn't been possible.  Our horses cannot keep up with it, although they're sure trying and some of them are showing the effects.

So far - it's not even mid-June - Maisie has developed laminitis and a number of the horses have gone from a good body condition to obese.  I'm not a big fan of obesity in horses - it's hard on the joints and supporting tendons and ligaments and is a risk factor for laminitis.  I've started bringing my three pastured horses (Lily, Dawn and Noble) in at noon so their grazing is limited - Lily is going into the dry lot with Maisie, with some hay, Dawn is going in a grass paddock that is pretty depleted, and Noble is going in another small grass paddock that isn't as rich as the pastures.

Our pastures might be perfect for lactating mares - and in fact, that's what we now have - lactating mares!  Both Lily and Misty are getting bags filled with milk, or a milk-like liquid.  They've both had this happen at times when our pastures are richer.  Misty has had two foals, and Lily may have had one before we got her.  In fact Lily was uncomfortable enough last night that she insisted that I milk her to reduce the pressure!  (I didn't keep what we produced!)  Lily will turn around and back up to me when she needs her butt scratched, or udder cleaned, but this time it was clear that she wanted the udder emptied - every time I stopped milking, she would turn the butt to me and back up towards me until I started again!

I'm hoping for some dry weather, and some heat, so the grass will decide it can stop growing for a while!

15 comments:

  1. Not sure about getting some nice clear and dry weather! It sure has been wet this spring!!

    It would be a shame to have to limit their turnout time. But, maybe that is necessary for their health.

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  2. Kate! i found you! Now I can see what your Lilly looks like!!!!

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  3. LOL!!! Kate we do have our issues at our little barn don't we?! At least our hay costs will be low this month....
    Scout and Joe are loving the grass, but we do need to mow, or maybe get it baled, like you suggested....or ride a lot more.(now there's an idea I should follow up on)
    Jill

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  4. You know, several of the retirees here are pudgy, but we've never had any problems with laminitis or founder, and we have a couple of residents that have previously foundered. I wonder why that is, and ponder this question often, but don't know that I have the answer.

    If I had a horse that I was actively riding/competing that couldn't stay within a reasonable weight on grass I might dry lot them part of the time, but I really hate doing that to horses. My retired mare Bridget is a fatty but she is so much happier out in the pasture with her friends than she ever would be in the barn or a dry lot. She's retired, she's earned her retirement, and I want her to have a happy one.

    We always get dry here in the summer so our grass quality goes down considerably starting anywhere from mid to late June through August. Maybe that's what keeps the previously foundered in the safe zone.

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  5. We have lots of grass too, but have been able to mow so it's under control. Some of the bigger 'hoovers' have grazing muzzles to restrict them. All of our horses do so much better if they are turned out all day so we wouldn't think of keeping them in.

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  6. I wish we could use grazing muzzles - since our pastures haven't been mowed and are in tall grass with a mix of clover, the muzzles really don't work since the grass won't fit through the hole in the bottom. We did try putting our pony Norman out one year in a muzzle, but he could lose it in an instant no matter how we tried to attach it - he also ditches halters! If we can get a dry instant and can mow, then the muzzle will be more practical. This is a particular issue for Maisie, whose grazing time is likely to be very limited otherwise.

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  7. WOW Kate!!! I totally understand!! Syd has gained 97 lbs in only 3 weeks!!! Shes gona need a girth extender!!

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  8. Grazing muzzles are our friend. We have 3 horses that are wearing the muzzles now. They are brought into the barn at night and are fed hay.

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  9. Yes I am extremely jealous!!!!!! Isn't it funny - we complain when there is no grass and then we complain when there is too much!!!!! I think too much is better than too little!

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  10. We have the same problem here. These mustangs (and the appy) are easy keepers, which isn't so easy in the spring. I'm going to have to dry lot one of them, his cresty neck is getting pretty alarming.

    Have you ever looked at the website www.safergrass.org? It's a great source of info on grass, obesity, feeding, etc.

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  11. My Boys weren't even interested in coming in for dinner tonight, and I have a meager little pasture. Guess the grass must be better than I thought.

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  12. Oh that's so funny that your mare wants her butt scratched. I thought I was the only one that humored ours! The previous owners said they had trained her to turn around and scratch but I wasn't too fond of that of first!! She's harmless with it and really likes it so I just make it part of the grooming process. If I don't want her to do it, I just kiss to her to disengage now and she obeys. Ours are starting to pork out so less time on the pastures...even with regular workouts.

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  13. Andrea -thanks for the recommendation - I'll check that out!

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  14. Kate, Panama is a sensitive horse too, probably partly because he's so young. I only barely squeeze with my lower legs when I want him to go -- he responds mainly to a little cluck. It's taught me a lot about how I ride that I had never considered before.

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  15. Oops, that was meant for the post about Dawn. My first comment on your blog and I screwed it up! :::sigh:::

    At any rate, this has been a very weird year so far. We had 50 and 60 degree weather most of the winter until about late March -- odd even for Colorado. Now we're getting daily thunderstorms, which isn't terribly odd, but the fact that the temperature is only in the 60s and low 70s in June certainly is.

    I hope the weather goes back to normal soon, for all of us, so that we can go back to life as normal!

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