Yes, it’s a bit late but that grass boosting combo of rain and sunshine has put the spring into our pasture so don’t be surprised if your horse is getting a sugar hit that will make him or her a bit of a handful. It’s also thought that spring grass contains a high level of potassium which reduces the horse’s uptake of magnesium resulting in another reason why our equine friends can range from excitable to explosive!
As well as helping with our horse’s mood, magnesium is also important for muscle function and it’s thought it can benefit horses prone to obesity and laminitis. If you think that magnesium could benefit your horse, always choose a supplement that contains ‘chelated’ magnesium.
Because of the change of management many horses experience at this time of year as they’re turned out after a winter of limited access to grass, it’s also worth putting them on a pre and probiotic to promote a healthy level of that all important gut bacteria. (Hyperlink to gut biome post) This will also help horses that are regularly turned out cope with the seasonal change in the grass too.
We’d love to know if you’ve found the perfect way to take the stress out of spring grass!
Around this time of year I begin to dread the arrival of spring grass. For my ponies, this is the season of sugary madness!
Having owned a pony for 12 years and two shetland ponies for the past seven years has meant constant and prolonged dieting (similar to their owner!) Like balloons, they get fat on thin air. The two shetland ponies in particular only have to look at grass to put on weight (I'm like that with chocolate). So as spring turns to summer and the grass grows tall and luscious my patience gets it’s big annual test, because nothing tests my patience more than putting two miniature shetland ponies on a diet. I have had the pleasure of owning these two little critters since they were rescued as foals. George (aka King George) and Dotty (aka Mrs Dotty) are both seven years old, but a month apart in date of birth. George is by far the naughtiest and cheekiest with the ability to escape any form of enclosure. I’m not over exaggerating here…he is Houdini in equine form. I should have it officially announced that he is the best escape artist in Cheshire. No scrap that. The best escape artist in the world!
Every year I slave away for hours constructing an electric fencing track around the paddock in order to keep their weight under control and stave off laminitis. And, every year I watch George escape.
Every. Single. Year!
He will be happily munching on the grass in the track enclosure with Dotty by his side whilst I muck out the field and give them all a brush on one of my trips to the yard. He looks so innocent, his small little ears poking through his fly rug. Yet a few hours later, when I’m out giving the dog his lunchtime walk, for instance, I find George half way across a nearby field stuffing his face with the longest, most sugary grass he can find. This grass in the other paddocks is meant for silaging…so it hides him well and it can sometimes be tricky to find him at all unless you stand on the fencing and look from above. I then spend a further hour or two chasing him around three acres of land. Neither Dotty or my other pony (14.2hh) escape with him, so how does he do it? How does he manage to escape? Believe me I’ve been pulling my hair out trying to figure it out for years.
After much running, sweating and swearing, when I finally catch the piggy pony he is just as out of breath as I am thanks to his growing grass belly. Once I've tied him up I usually put on my Sherlock Holmes cap to inspect the crime scene hoping I will find out how and where he has managed to escape.. But I can't find anything. The electric fencing is always working correctly. It hasn’t been disconnected and the battery is still working well…I check the gaps (I make sure to use five yes FIVE rows of the electric fencing so that the munchkins can’t sneak through, and they are all intact as well. I was convinced that he couldn’t be jumping it…it was well over 4 ft in height. Confused and tired from all of the running about I always give it one more go and put George back into the track with Dotty and hope he doesn’t escape again.
Days go by of the same. At lunchtime every day I have to repeat the caper of running after a fat shetland pony to get him back into his diet paddock. The only plus side to this is that it keeps me really well exercised. Never mind putting the shetlands on a diet, this is my very own fat camp. In fact this could be a great business opportunity, I will create my own fat camp where customers are tasked with catching my shetland pony every day. - Don’t be fooled by their tiny legs, they can really shift when they want to! Anyway, in the end I decided there was only one thing left to do - to set up a watch station inside my horse box and to sit there, waiting. I sat there for hours watching that sneaky pony quietly munching away in the track paddock alongside Dotty. He didn’t do anything. He never left the paddock all day.
I sat there for FOUR HOURS….FOUR long hours. He didn’t put a hoof wrong.
But, guess what - when I left my station for a couple of hours to have lunch and do some work I came back to find him OUTSIDE of the track paddock AGAIN.
It’s official. Putting a shetland pony on a diet is the hardest task I have ever done. The only theory I have come up with to explain how he escapes is that he must be jumping over the fence. Has George been hiding a secret talent? Watch out John Whitaker I think I’ve found your next show jumper…I expect your phone call with an offer to purchase this high quality jumper, soon!
I would love to hear your conspiracy theories…maybe you've experienced something similar. How does my shetland pony escape?
Katy's novel, Forever Amber, is available to buy now. It is the true story about her mare, who she's owned for 10 years, who broke her leg followed by several life threatening illnesses. It was a huge journey... Amber is truly inspirational, she never stopped fighting.
An agreed percentage of the proceeds from each sale of both the e-book and printed edition is being donated to the British Horse Society in aid of protecting, expanding and maintaining bridle paths across the UK.