Acclimating to grass schedule

Spoke with my vet yesterday about re-introducing my horses to pasture after being dry lotted for the past six weeks. She recommended starting with 30 minutes for the first five days, then an hour for the following week adding an additional hour every few days thereafter.

That’s the part I’m starting to overthink, do you add an hour every other day? Every three days? Once they get to like four hours is it safe to go from four hours to say, six?!

What do you all do?

None of my horses are IR or need grazing muzzles. One hard keeper OTTB, one senior QH, and a warmblood who is in good weight.

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I’m in the after building up to 4 hrs move to all day camp.

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I learned the system where you start at 15 minutes and add 15 minutes every day until you get to five hours and then they can stay out as long as you want them to.

The first couple of days it is hard to get them to come in (we have to walk out and get them), even with dinner waiting in their stalls. But after that they get the routine down and it is surprisingly easy.

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I like that plan, seems a little more simple. I have a gate that opens from my winter turn out to my pasture, I thought about sectioning off a small area with step in posts so they can’t go too far in the pasture which will make it easier to bring them back in when their time is up!

I know most folks, myself included, have to add more than an hour at a time after a certain point because of work schedules.

I generally do an hour or so in the evenings for a week. That weekend I’ll bump it up to 4 hours. If they’re doing great, then I go for full days after that. If they’re not (loose poops or whatever), then I do more evenings in the 2-3 hour range and try again the next weekend.

It’s certainly not textbook, but I don’t know a lot of people who sit at home all day with the ability to up it with more regularity. I think the most important thing is to watch your horses.

Another option would be to use a grazing muzzle while adding the bigger chunks of time. And my vet recommends turning them out to pasture after they’ve eaten so they’re more full on grain/hay and less likely to stuff themselves on grass.

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I’ve usually done, and seen people do:
15 mins/day for a week
30 mins/day for a week
60 mins/day for a week
2 hours/day for a week
3 hours/day for a week
4 hours/day for a week
Can then go out 24/7

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Your vet’s schedule sounds reasonable enough to me, but of course the lushness of your grass makes a big difference too, as does the time of day. If you think the grass is just over-the-top, jet fuel quality, err on the side of conservatism.

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In my experience, only your horse can answer that question. Assuming you have had an insulin test showing his insulin level is currently low, get to know your horse’s baselines indicators now before you start him on grass:

Can you find a pulse on any of his feet. If so, which one and what does it feel like. If there is any change on the number of feet or strength of pulse, back in dry lot and start over.

What does his crest look and feel like now? Is it straight. Is it thin from side to side? Is it loose and supple if you shake it back and forth? It it gets more arched, thicker from side to side, or firmer when you try to shake it, back in the dry lot and start over.

If you miss those first two signs, you will next notice ouchiness over gravel (if barefoot), then a fatty lump in front of, well it forms in front of my mare’s udder. I think it was in front of my gelding’s penis not behind, I don’t have a clear memory. Then an overall weight gain and the well-known lump over the tail. All of these mean hightail it back to the dry lot and stay there until all symptoms return to normal and/or get an insulin test before starting again.

Have you joined the ECIR IO Group? Great people sharing a wealth of information on IR.

Good luck!

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I have a Cushings pony that can’t go out on grass, no matter how slowly introduced. So, if you’re concerned about laminitis, I don’t think the issue is just introduction to grass. I’ve never seen any indication that I can “prepare” him to be able to manage pasture…he just can’t.

For my other horses, my main concern is only a switch from hay to grass for digestion purposes, and the most common “side effect” is runny manure if you go too quickly. I don’t know of any horses that have ever colicked by being turned out on pasture, but I guess it can happen.

I usually start mine at 30-60 minutes. They currently have a sacrifice pasture that grows a little grass so they have had a little bit before being turned out. I typically give them 1-2 hours max after a day or so, for about a week. The best way I’ve found to do this is to turn out in the morning, because once the sun is up and hot they want to come back in anyway. After 4 hours or so (for about a week) I feel comfortable giving them overnight turnout - starting late and bringing in early.

I think one of the most important factors is to prepare your pasture as much as your horses. I don’t want mine going out before it’s been mowed at least once, preferably twice.

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Could you define “turn out late and bring in early”? Thank you!

Oh, I just mean like 9pm to 5am…versus regular feeding time (around 6:30-7:00pm and 6:30-7:00am.) So it’s 8 hours versus 12 hours on grass. Once the weather is warm, my horses will bring themselves in as soon as the sun comes up because they will be full, tired, and trying to avoid the bugs. But at first, they might be happy to gorge themselves for a full 12 hours if I allowed them to.

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Yup! This is what I do, no issues. Every year we drylot in winter and reintroduce to grass in spring when it’s dry enough. 15m every day until 4hrs then out overnight. We have a cushings QH in the group who thrives on the grass and looks the best he does all year - he is toothless and can’t masticate hay.

OP, I think your vet’s schedule is very conservative, but there’s nothing wrong with doing it that way if that’s what you choose. If my horses were stalled regularly, I would probably be more conservative with grass times too - but they live out 24/7, and I think the main concern is inflammation and gas build-up, which is substantially worse in a stalled environment.

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LOL that’s like my entire grazing season. It will be over by the time they get to 24/7.

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I’m not as fancy. Pony wears a muzzle and I turnout middle of the day for 3-4 hours. If firm poop and no heat or pulses I keep increasing till 8 hours, adding a couple hours in the afternoon at a time. I did the same for the new horse but no muzzle as he doesn’t have grass issues.

I also cut the grass every other day in the pasture and it’s not rocket fuel either. Just semi-decent grass with weeds and clover. They can’t go in my rocket fuel fields and if they were it would be a few hours after breakfast and both with a muzzle.

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Do you mean literally “every other day”???

Wowser.

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Only in that one acre pasture, it’s growing so fast…literally can see growth overnight. My one horse and muzzled pony can’t keep up with it. They are out 8-10 hours on it.

The other pastures I cut bi-weekly, but I have to cut my yard 2x a week now or it is 2” over my ankle. We reseeded and fertilized everything last fall after years of neglect and everything is taking off.

That’s an impressive amount of work! My pastures are larger, I move the horses around a lot, and I still only cut to 4" when the grass is 8" tall.

You’re making me feel like a terrible lazy slob over here.

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oh wow! Only six weeks of grass, I’m sorry for you!

Yeah it’s probably a little overkill, but that was at boarding barns in Ohio coming out of winters onto rich spring grass usually. IDK what people do in Florida, mine are out 24/7 here on my own farm.

Well, it is a bit of an exaggeration. :slight_smile: But by the time the spring mud dries and grass is tall enough to mow, and before the fall rains make the pasture too soft to have full turnout…it’s not a terribly long season.

I’ve only seen the gradual grass acclimation done here in FL when turning out onto the winter ryegrass. I figured the concept was the same. Lol. I think further south into FL winter rye may not be as common as here in the frigid panhandle :rofl: