Hints & Tips: Problems in pastures

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Warm wet weather provides perfect growing conditions for your pasture, and spring grass is rich in sugars called fructans. Introduce your horse slowly to spring grass by gradually increasing the time that they spend grazing, to prevent gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhoea and spasmodic colic.

If your horse is overweight, out of work, prone to laminitis/a native type it may be necessary to restrict their grazing by reducing their turnout time or the size of their turnout area. Restriction of grazing using a muzzle or starvation paddock can reduce grass intake but still allows your horse to exercise.


Rich grass and obesity is known to cause laminitis, and when it comes to laminitis prevention is better than a cure. In the past it was thought that grass rich in fructans triggered laminitis by disrupting fermentation in the horse’s hind gut, however, it’s now believed that laminitis is strongly linked to hormonal imbalances.

Insulin is known to play an important role in the regulation of blood glucose levels, as it moves glucose from the blood stream into tissues and it’s released from the pancreas when blood glucose levels rise.

The ingestion of soluble carbohydrates by some horses/ponies whilst they are grazing can cause abnormally high insulin levels, which eventually leads to insulin resistance and the development of Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS), which is similar to type II diabetes in people.

Obesity can also cause insulin resistance, as substances released from fat interfere with normal insulin function and the pancreas releases more insulin to compensate for this resulting in raised insulin levels within the bloodstream. Native breeds are more likely to develop EMS than other breeds. If you are concerned that your horse/pony may be at risk of laminitis ask your vet to perform blood tests to check their blood glucose and insulin levels, and perform a test for equine Cushing’s syndrome.

  • Exercise your horse/pony daily as this aids weight loss and improves insulin sensitivity.
  • Try to maintain your horse/pony’s correct body weight. Ask your vet to show you how to use a weigh tape, and how to assess body condition score.
  • If your horse is overweight reduce your horse’s soluble carbohydrate intake.
  • Soaking hay can be a very useful way of reducing its sugar content.
  • Feeding hay in haylage nets or inside two hay nets (‘double netting’) can help slow down your horse or pony to prolong feeding time.



The warmth and moisture can also bring with it other hidden dangers, as the weather creates the perfect environment for the hatching of worm eggs on equine pastures. The larvae are then eaten by grazing horses, which then become infected. Also, if your horse was infected by small red worms (cyathostomes) during the previous year, the larvae may have remained dormant in your horse’s guts over the winter months, and they suddenly emerge from their colon when the weather warms up, damaging the gut lining.


  • Ask your vet to perform a worm egg count on your horse’s faeces, but remember this will not identify tapeworms or encysted small red worms. Always carry out faecal egg counts before you move your horse to ‘clean’ pasture.
  • During spring use a broad spectrum wormer that also provides protection against small red worms and tapeworm.
  • Pick up your horse’s droppings from their pasture on a regular basis.
  • Ensure you dose your horse/pony for the correct weight and use the correct dosing technique. Adopt good pasture management practices, such as harrowing and rolling, and avoid overstocking.
  • If newcomers are being introduced to your herd ensure that they have a faecal egg count carried out or are wormed before they join the group.
  • Consider grazing your horse/pony with sheep (mixed grazing).
  • Graze young horses in groups and avoid mixing them with older horses.

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