Did you know that forage is the largest source of sugar in your horse/ pony's diet?
Grass may contain high levels of simple sugars (the main one being sucrose – the same sugar you put in your tea) and fructan or ‘stored sugar', collectively referred to as water soluble carbohydrate (WSC).
In fact, a 300kg pony turned out 24/7 could consume up to 2.3kg of simple sugars and up to 7.5kg of WSC from grass alone! But fresh grass isn't the only culprit, hay and haylage can be deceptively high is WSC too.
With many owners concerned about ‘lamintis season' we wanted to share some tips for reducing sugar intake from forage…
- Restrict or remove grazing. For horses and ponies at very high risk, complete removal from grazing may be the only option.
- Methods of restricting grass intake include using a grazing muzzle, strip grazing, turning out on sparse paddocks or ‘non-grass turnout'.
- Beware of binge eating! Turning out for short periods without a muzzle or allowing free access to grazing after removing a grazing muzzle can lead gorging.
- Avoid turning out on sunny, frosty mornings. Grass exposed to cold temperatures in combination with bright sunlight may contain high levels of WSC.
- Consider turning out at night when WSC levels are likely to lower. Grass can't photosynthesise (and therefore produce sugar) without sunlight and provided it is warm enough, frutan will be used for growth overnight.
- Avoid pastures that have not been properly managed. Mature ‘stemmy' pastures and grass that has been stressed by drought or over-grazing may be deceptively high in WSC.
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