Monitor Your Horse’s Feed:
Turn Your Horses out on Pasture Gradually
This is that time of year when we begin introducing our horses to pasture again – gradually.
I start by giving the horse’s a normal hay ration in the morning and turning them out at 10 AM for 1/2 hour. I do this for several days.
I keep an eye on each horse looking for signs of discomfort or loose manure. If all is well, the horses are left out for an hour. I do this for several days.
Then I increase turnout time by 1/2 hour per grazing period and hold at the new level for several days.
When the horses are up to 2 hours of grazing, their morning hay ration is reduced according to the individual horse’s needs.
When the horses are up to 4 hours of grazing, I sometimes split turnout into two 2 hour sessions, one in the morning and one in the evening.
At about the 3 week point, the horses are grazing for 6-8 hours per day and receive token hay rations.
At that point, I shift to our normal turnout program which is to turn the horses out at dark until just before dawn. Here, this time of year, that is about 10 PM to 6 AM.
Then each morning we “jingle” the horses, that is gather them up and put them in their individual sheltered pens where they can get out of the sun and stay away from insects. According to each horse’s individual needs, hay is fed at mid-day.
Using this management plan works well for us here at 6700 feet in semi-arid Colorado. It allows the horses to get used to the pasture grass gradually and the horses are conveniently located up at the buildings during the day for grooming, tacking and riding.