With the colder weather here to stay we thought we would take the time to talk to you about frosty grass and why it can be a big worry for horse owners, especially those with animals prone to laminitis.
During sunny weather grass makes and stores sugars, a process known as photosynthesis. At night when grass is able to grow, these sugars are used up. When environmental conditions such as low temperatures or lack of rainfalll prevent growth, sugar levels can continue to accumulate in the grass, making it unsuitable for horses and ponies with an increased the risk of laminitis.
During photosynthesis, any sugars not used for growing are stored at he base of the stem, close to the ground, as fructans. During cold weather the grass is unable to use the fructans to grow and they can then be ingested by the horse, increasing the risk of an attack of laminitis. This is why shorter, over grazed pasture is a particular worry during frosty weather, only the base of the stem, where sugars are stored, is available to graze and so more fructans are ingested.
So what can we do to help our lamanitic equines?
Obviously the best way to help would be to completely remove the horse from the pasture until temperatures have risen to a point that the grass can begin to grow again and excess sugars are used up. If this is not possible then there are still a number of options for safer grazing.
– Avoid short, over grazed pasture. Longer, ungrazed grass will be higher in fibre and horses will be much less likely to eat the sugary base of the stem
– Consider using a grazing muzzle. When wearing one, horses can only nibble on the tips of the grass stem and can find it harder to reach the fructan rich base
– Make sure your horse has access to alternative forage sources. This can be in the form of hay or forage replacers such as low calorie chaffs, pelleted fibres or mashes. We particularly love @spillershorsefeeds
Super Senior Mash, currently discounted by £3 a bag, as it has a tempting apple flavour that will be more enticing than the sugary grass to most horses.
If you suspect your horse has succumbed to laminitis you should contact your vet immediately.