Adjusting to Spring Pastures

In most areas of North America, pastures are coming to their verdant peak.  This beautiful flush is also a powerhouse of nutrition for the horse.

Spring grass has abundant supplies of  vitamins and omega-3 essential fats which likely contribute to the undeniable bloom and gleam of horses on young pastures.  They often top 20% protein in their early growth stages. Fiber levels are low; calories and digestibility at their peaks.

With feral horses coming out of winter in poor condition, foals on the way, spring grass growth is literally life-saving. There are many differences between that scenario and today’s typical domesticated horse.

Natural prairies, steppes and savannas are different from well maintained pastures. Their grasses also have superior nutrition in the spring, but pastures for domestic animals are seeded and fertilized so the growth is much more dense. They are also typically “improved” strains of grasses that will withstand a lot of traffic, grazing and weather extremes. In addition, improved grasses have higher simple sugar levels.

Access to spring pasture leads to weight gain for any horse that does not have high calorie requirements, like lactating mares and growing foals.  It is also a drastic diet change from hay, often resulting in soft manure or even bloating and abdominal discomfort. Gradual introduction to spring pasture, supplemental psyllium to increase fiber, and a high potency probiotic can help the digestive tract adapt to the diet change.

The most well known potential danger of spring pastures is deterioration in the hooves.  While it has been claimed that any horse may develop pasture-related problems, the research does not support this.  Study after study

over the last decade and a half, including over multiple year periods, has found that high insulin levels are the risk factor.

Ironically, many breeds that remain true to their ancestral feral form, like Shetlands and Icelandics, are among the most at risk. However, in their natural habitat grass was neither abundant nor the sugar-loaded variety available to domesticated horses.

The only sure way to protect horses at risk is to keep them off pasture or use a completely sealed muzzle. If you play with fire and lose, immediately take the horse off pasture and feed only hay that is known to be less than 10% sugar and starch combined or soaked hay (soaking lowers sugars).  The safest carrier for supplements is a small amount of beet pulp which has been rinsed, soaked and rinsed again to remove excess sugar or molasses.  Hoof trim should be done according to radiographs.

The horse is otherwise best supported by ingredients that are directed to nitric oxide production. The herb Gynostemma pentaphyllum (Jiaogulan) is a powerful support for nitric oxide. This is helped by providing the precursors for nitric oxide in the form of L-arginine and L-citrulline. Antioxidants also combat oxidative stress which inhibits the activity of the enzyme that produces the beneficial nitric oxide inside blood  vessels [eNOS – endothelial nitric oxide synthesis].

Spring grass is nature’s most powerful tonic, but there can be too much of a good thing. Utilize it wisely.

Uckele Health & Nutrition, maker of CocoSoya®, offers formulas that provide help with adjusting to spring pastures. 

Quadra-Fac is a potent blend of live Probiotics and Active Yeast Enzymes that supplies active cultures to support digestive function, healthy enzyme activity, and proper nutrient absorption. Beneficial bacteria break down ingredients to help produce energy, food for cells in the colon and cecum, and byproducts to keep harmful bacteria from multiplying.

Psyllium is a supplemental source of dietary fiber for horses that graze short pastures and consume significant quantities of sand and dirt.  It helps form a gelatinous mass that helps keep waste moving through the intestines. Contains no fillers, flavors, or starch – 100% fiber.

LaminOx provides full spectrum support for hoof health and comfort, healthy circulation and metabolic balance. Supports healthy vascular function with Jiaogulan to promote circulation and structural hoof health.  Contains the amino acid Arginine, a precursor to nitric oxide, which also plays an important role in healthy blood flow.

About Dr. Kellon
Dr. Eleanor Kellon, staff veterinary specialist for Uckele Health & Nutrition, is an established authority in the field of equine nutrition for over 30 years, and a founding member and leader of the Equine Cushings and Insulin Resistance (ECIR) group, whose mission is to improve the welfare of horses with metabolic disorders via integration of research and real-life clinical experience.  Prevention of laminitis is the ultimate goal.

Uckele Health & Nutrition, maker of CocoSoya, is an innovation-driven health company committed to making people and their animals healthier.  On the leading edge of nutritional science and technology for over 50 years, Uckele formulates and manufactures a full spectrum of quality nutritional supplements incorporating the latest nutritional advances.

Contact: Susan Libby,


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