View Full Version : Show horse turnout schedule/founder risks

Mar. 28, 2011, 05:35 PM
What do your show horses get in terms of turnout time? How do you handle grass growing season in terms of worrying about founder risk and how do you adjust your turnout schedule to accomodate.
I have 10-20 'A' circuit hunters and jumpers each on 1-2 acre private paddocks and I do have grass. I mow pastures starting in April typically but the grass has started greening up a lot. Not really seeing weight changes in anyone.
Some are so concerned of founder that they want horses out for 2 hours or less a day. I've generally thought that if horses were out on grass as it was coming in and at a good weight then they were fine. Most of my horses currently get 6-12 hours of turnout.
Your thoughts?

Mar. 28, 2011, 05:57 PM
I would address this question with your Vet(s). Should something happen you don't want to validate your caregiving by saying well I read on COTH... while there are very very good opinions and info given on this board, we don't know the horses, their health and showing history, like your vet does; and they don't know what your pastures are like etc.

Mar. 28, 2011, 06:05 PM
have spoken to vet extensively but was interested in how others address the same issue.

Mar. 28, 2011, 06:14 PM
My show horses and ponies are out on grass about 4 - 6 hours a day will no ill effects. My vets have always told me that if they have been on grass at some point in their lives they should be fine, it's the ones that have always been dry-lotted that you should worry about.

Obviously, if you have one that hasn't been pastured in a while, I would acclimate them gradually after a discussion with my vet.

ETA - the spring grass usually has a high water content and isn't that "hot" yet, it's the fall grass that tends to be hot - or at least that is what my vet has told me....

Mar. 28, 2011, 06:15 PM
Grazing muzzles are used at my barn in the spring (assuming it ever gets here ;)) on the ponies, heavier type horses or those that tend to pick up weight too quickly.

There is some good information in this article: http://www.aaep.org/health_articles_view.php?id=66

Mar. 28, 2011, 06:53 PM
All of my show horses are out 24/7. Even my easy keepers do fine on full grass (on a 2 acre pasture). My feeling is that if they're out 365 days a year I'm not overly concerned about them feeling the need to gorge.

My small pony is the only equine on the property who I worry about foundering given the chance, and he's in 10 hours/out 14 hours all year round. Once we get to the point where the grass really starts growing I put him in a grazing muzzle for his "out" time.

Mar. 28, 2011, 07:14 PM
Reducing turnout may not limit grass intake

Martha Terry
28 March, 2011

A new study suggests that reducing turnout to restrict a pony's grass intake may be pointless.

Researchers at Aberystwyth University's Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences, in collaboration with the Waltham Equine Studies Group, found ponies on restricted grazing increase their grass intake during the time they are in the field, particularly as they become accustomed to their routine.

Full text: http://www.horseandhound.co.uk/news/397/306541.html

Mar. 28, 2011, 08:02 PM
What others have said. If they are used to being out and so "ease into" the new grass as it grows, you shouldn't have any problems. It is good for them to be out as long as they/you can do it.

Mar. 28, 2011, 09:31 PM
ours get 4 hours grass and at least 4 hours mixed (some grass, mostly dirt). After 2 weeks of transition time, they are on grass 24/7.

Mar. 28, 2011, 10:22 PM
have spoken to vet extensively but was interested in how others address the same issue.

Too many variables here. Somebody on the west coast with sparser mixed grasses may need to take no precautions at all while somebody with knee deep and lush, juicy Ky Bluegrass may want to watch the clock the first few times out.

Most USEF show horses on the A level don't get 24/7 turn out (usually due to lack of sufficient space) and many are only home a week or so a month so it is good to be a bit cautious.

I'm on Bluegrass and mixed, seeded and rotated. 1/2 to 2 acre paddock in 2s or 3s, 2 to 8 hours a day depending on a variety of things. On the advice of our vet, they start with an hour only once it has dried out and the grass established (use sacrifice paddocks until that happens) but quickly increase to normal time over about a week.

I should think that, as a professional trainer on the A level, OP should be willing to go along with client wishes and suggest a call to the vet for owners with questions. Between some of the stuff that gets put on the net by lord knows who and the possibility of having a bad experience with new grass in the past, owners are going to have some questions.

That Pony article referenced above? Interesting ...but it seems to deal with restricting access by limiting time on the grass with the result the little buggers just eat as fast as they can. Most of us, when we think of a Pony that cannot have free access to grass? We think of that as NO GRASS. Period. Sand pen. Naked. Nothing.

Mar. 28, 2011, 10:36 PM
Grazing muzzles. Even horses out on grass 24/7 can founder as the grass comes in if you are in a part of the country where it comes in "hard." Anyway, if I were you I would suggest the same turnout time but purchase of a grazing muzzle so the horse can go out but still not get much grass. My jumper is in a grazing muzzle 14 hours a day during grass season, in (or in a small paddock with no grass) at night.

Now if the horse is not one that has any sign of needing to be limited on grass, I would work with them/talk to the vet with them. When I rotate everyone onto my spring grass field out of the winter sacrifice field, I do 1/2 hour a day for 5 days, 1 hour a day for a week, 2 hours for a week, 4 hours for a week, then full days. Being concerned about straight onto the field for 4 hours does not sound overcautious to me? They can eat a day's worth of grass in 4 hours. That's why I think the 1/2 hour and hour intro days are important, they are the true "easing" days really IMO, that's probably the only time you are really doing any limiting, more than that and a glutton can probably stuff himself with all he wants.

ETA: Just reread and it sounds like you aren't introducing grass but putting horses on the same fields they've been in. In that situation I agree with BeeHoney that unless there is some reason to think they have a problem, they will likely be fine. Just work with the vet and the owner to make sure they feel that the horse does not have a problem. If the owner is still concerned, you can always still use the grazing muzzle/dry lot so the horse can go out even if it doesn't really need it. Won't hurt anything for a horse to wear one for half a day as long as you feed plenty of hay in the stall, if that makes the owner more comfy about the grass situation.

Mar. 28, 2011, 10:43 PM
Some good articles here: http://www.safergrass.org/

Mar. 28, 2011, 11:58 PM
I think your horses' founder risk is probably very low and your clients are being nervous nellies to the detriment of their horses. That's just MHO :) Turnout is a good thing. My show horses are out on lush grass 20/7. I have a couple of fatties that have to be restricted when they start plumping up.

Make sure the horses are acclimated slowly if they have not been on grass. If they have been going out in the same paddock every day they do not need to be acclimated. If there is a lot of rich spring grass, cut way (way) back on the concentrates you are feeding and add a ration balancer. Most horses self regulate their grass intake very nicely.

Ponies, and older, fatter, crestier, hairier type horses, should be treated more carefully. If they are just fat, they get a grazing muzzle or drylot t/o. Horses with evidence of Cushings should be tested for it, these are the horses that are going to be super sensitive to the increased sugar levels in the grass. You cannot play around with those horses, some of those horses can be incredibly sensitive to changes in the grass. I'm very careful with ponies.

I completely agree with Xanthoria's citation about grass consumption. Horses left out for shorter periods are efficient at snorking down just as much grass as a horse left out there for 12 hours. I don't think it makes much of a difference.

What you really have here is a customer service issue, where clients want something silly for their horses, and it puts you in an awkward position, because even though you are completely right, heaven help you if one of those horses was to turn out to have Cushing's and foundered...

Mar. 29, 2011, 12:38 PM
In my area I let the grass grow, get green, mow a couple times then I let the horses - show and pleasure out for 2 hour intervals throughout a 2 week time span. Once adjusted they go out longer and longer. I don't think of grass as real food for my horses so I don't worry about foundering, using muzzles - they are not on grass 24/7.

I do not let them out on the grass in the early morning when there is still dew on the grass. The silica is not good for them. I wait till the sun comes up, dew disappears and then turn out.

Mar. 29, 2011, 12:52 PM
What you really have here is a customer service issue, where clients want something silly for their horses,

OP didn't say anything about owners being "silly". Around here, where the fields were frozen for 4 months and currently still knee deep mud but drying rapidly and the very rich grass "comes in hard" as fordtracktor says?

What's "silly" about an owner with questions wanting to be involved with decisions about the horse's care?

Mar. 30, 2011, 12:55 PM
OP didn't say anything about owners being "silly". Around here, where the fields were frozen for 4 months and currently still knee deep mud but drying rapidly and the very rich grass "comes in hard" as fordtracktor says?

What's "silly" about an owner with questions wanting to be involved with decisions about the horse's care?

There is absolutely nothing silly about owners having questions and wanting to be involved in their horses' care. I would never discourage that. What would be silly is if after consulting with experts (veterinarians, experienced barn managers, nutritionists, farriers, etc.) an owner still wanted to do something that went against that advice.

It's possible I read too much into the OP's posts. It sounded to me like she has a turnout program at her barn that has a track record for being safe and and she's talked to her vet about it extensively. The OP asked her question very tactfully, but I got the impression that she has clients who despite her experience and despite the advice of the vet are still insisting on very limited turnout.

IME, adequate turnout is very important to the mental and physical well being of horses, and limiting it without a valid reason is foolish. Obviously this is just my own humble point of view. :)

Mar. 30, 2011, 01:45 PM
Beehoney seems to know exactly what is going on. My guys that have done the winter circuits and been off grass for 8+ weeks get an hour or two a week and add an hour each week. My horses that have been at home over the winter I try to keep on their same schedule and just add grazing muzzles to the fat ones. My vets think this is a good schedule and plenty cautious. The owners think that 1-2 hours is all those horses should have too. I think that lack of turnout is more harmful than a bit of muzzled turnout.

Mar. 30, 2011, 03:01 PM
Try talking to the owners and suggest they have a chat with the vet.

I can see where the concern is, misplaced though it might be. But when you spend more then you spent on a new car for a show horse? You can get a little overprotective....and if you lack experience with owning horses? You can jump to conclusions based on half baked info not applicable to your situation gleaned off the internet or horror stories heard from a friend of a friend at a show.

Take the high road and try to educate them with the help of the vet. They really do mean well and are trying to do the right thing. Thats' the trouble with a career in horses, the people that own them.;)