I have a horse coming to me (is 4 this year) who has been living in the desert for the past 3 years (lived on high quality grass and alfalfa hay, not much exposure to "serious" grass). He is going to eventually be turned out into rather plentiful, well-maintained pasture, but will obviously start in a "dry lot". Can anyone recommend a transition schedule from the dry lot to pasture?
An hour a day for starters (assuming he's not fat) and work it up from there in 30 minute increments every few days, paying attention to how loose his stools are and making sure he seems otherwise bright and normal. Maybe get rid of the alfalfa and just use moderately nutritious grass hay to provide the rest of his forage.
Note this is what I typically do when transitioning from winter turnout (no grass) to spring pasture. It is not official, nor the only way, nor probably the "best" for all--just my method.
I've used the same method as DW when dealing with a horse not turned out on grass for awhile.
For winter to spring here, we just let them stay in their same large pastures, and as the first nibbles of new grass arrive they pounce on them, but don't get enough for the first week or two to have any problems. For those that must dry lot in winter, the first method is safest.
Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.
I think it depends on the horse how slowly or quickly you introduce pasture. For example I would use at least a month to slowly introduce an easy keeper to grass, but the typical TB I would use less than a month. I usually start with 30 min sessions twice a day, then move up a half hour every 3 days or so until you're at 3-4 hours a session. Then I will do full day. Of course you need to carefully monitor manure and check for digital pulses in feet (sign of founder). You could also put a grazing muzzle on and do longer sessions from the start.
My horses ( when we had pasture) always lived in the same field year round and as the grass started to slowly green and grow they just gradually got more and more of it. The only problems I had were with my easy keeper and mule who didn't need good grass 24/7 and in the height of pasture season they were dry lotted part of the time.
Thanks for the replies so far. I'll definitely talk to the vets but wanted other input. DW, the guy is on alfalfa, wheat and grass hay right now (el paso,tx) but will be transitioned to grass and local hay here in NC. He's coming in about 3 weeks. SAcres, the guy is a warmblood (some TB in the back) but is a bit on the nervous side. He's starting to do work and I don't think getting too fat will be a problem for him. Hmmm, a grazing muzzle might be a good idea...