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Fall Pastures and IR horses

 In a recent article I came across on The Horse (a publication that focuses on the latest research about horse care ) I was reminded how September is a touchy month for our laminits prone horses. If you have an Insulin Resistant horse, this a good month to be sure you put on his grazing muzzle, dry lot him part of the time and adjust his rations if needed. Even if your horse is not suffering from Cushings, IR or Metabolic Syndrome, it's a good idea to be conservative on the pasture turnout, to minimize the risk for all horses. Ponies, Morgans and any other horse with a fat, cresty neck, lumpy fat deposits and those that seem to "live on air" are especially at risk.
        In September, cooler nights and shorter days mean more cool season grasses are springing back up. Also, back to school and fewer daylight hours mean you will likely spend fewer hours in the saddle and your horse will not move around as much to burn off sugar fluctuations. Also, the addition of hay to the diet may be just around the corner.

  Best Hays to feed

  The best grass hays to feed are native prairie grass, Bermuda or other 'tropical' grasses. These are potentially the lowest in sugar, although conditions at time of harvest affect the final product since sugar doesn't evaporate when the hay dries.

 Less desirable includes brome, Fescue, timothy and orchard. These are regarded as cool season grasses that are often what we think of as "good" hay. They are higher calorie and most of that is the sugar your horse doesn't need. Most average, healthy horses do fine on them, but I would still recommend feeding more prairie hay with a little cool season grass mixed in.

LEGUMES? Alfalfa, vetch and clover are not really grasses, per se. They are higher in protein and calories, but fewer NSC (nonstructural carbs or SUGAR). The biggest danger with theses are often just obesity which is something we want to avoid, but are good for 'hard keepers' . Also, best when used as part of a mix where tropical grasses are the main menu item.


  •  Limit turnout to dusk to dawn or mid-morning. Sugar levels in grasses peak as the sun climbs higher, and peak around early evening. Keeping your horse off the pasture during this can minimize sugar spikes in his diet. Plus, he will be handy if you want to go for a ride. A dry lot is suitable confinement. 
  • Use a grazing muzzle during grazing turnout. This minimizes the amount of grass in each bite, but still allows the benefits of turnout such as companionship, exercise and constant intake of small amounts of food.
  • Ride! September usually means better riding weather, so get out and ride. Exercise helps metabolize the sugars in the diet and provides many other health benefits.
  • Adjust diet. If your horse is getting grain products, evaulate his body condition and work level and cut back if needed. Shorter days may mean shorter rides and the first thing to cut back on is grain, corn especially.
  • Consider herbal support. Some horses respond really well to special herb blends to support glucose/insulin levels as well as reduce inflammation. Check with your show association to makes sure you don't use any "illegal" herbs. Devils' Claw is often useful, but illegal in many associations, but is fine for a trail horse.