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Discuss How long should a horse eat? at the Horse Health forum - Horse Forums.

Case #1 3yr old geld has been out on grass full time till now. Now ...
  1. #1
    Senior Member tuckni's Avatar
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    How long should a horse eat?

    Case #1
    3yr old geld has been out on grass full time till now. Now he is on dry lot. How much time a day should he be out on grass to get what he needs?
    Case #2
    8 yr old mini needs to be dry lot. How long can he be out a day?
    Case #3
    Adult horses that have pretty much been in a dry lot now need to be turned out full time. How much time a day and how fast should the time be increased?

    The grass is VERRRRRRRRRRY good, green, thick, lush grass. It is probably the best grass any were ever. No Joke it is on a creek, it stays 1/2 wet and grows all the time. It used to be a hay field and they could get 3 cuttings off it EZ!!! Oh and it is the perfect mix for horse hay 3 gresses and alfalfa.
    So what do you think?
    Tuckni
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    Senior Member SavvySonny's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tuckni View Post
    Case #1
    3yr old geld has been out on grass full time till now. Now he is on dry lot. How much time a day should he be out on grass to get what he needs?
    Horses should have something to eat all the time. They are meant to be grazers and it is best for their system to have something in there all the time. I would say as much time as possible, then giving as much hay as he can eat in the pasture.
    Horses have a less chance of colic when they can have as much food as they want.

    Case #2
    8 yr old mini needs to be dry lot. How long can he be out a day?
    See above

    Case #3
    Adult horses that have pretty much been in a dry lot now need to be turned out full time. How much time a day and how fast should the time be increased?
    The horses at the barn that I board at go from a pasture with little grass (some here and there but not alot) to the big 20 acre pasture with grass. There has been no colic cases or foundering cases....ever.
    But if you are worried about that, then I'd do an hour a day for maybe 2-3 days, hen increase to 2 hours for 2-3 days and so on.
    (see my message in red)

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    Senior Member+ LateralFlexion's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SavvySonny View Post
    (see my message in red)

    I agree with you in principle....however regarding the minis... They can easily get fat on just hay, in a harsh winter, being fed three times a day. They really do need dry lot time to maintain a healthy weight.

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    Never had minis or ponies but from the ones I've seen they can live on about air. But a normal healthy horse I let them eat 24/7 I have a lot of great pasture land and in the spring when the grass is 6 to 8 inches high I turn my horses out to pasture and leave them on it 24/7. I make sure their full of good dry hay when I turn them out and that they have access to more but I've never had any problems doing it that way. When you have a large number of horses its just not practical to go get them after a few hours every day.

    The ranch a few miles from here always has done the same they have 200 horses can you imagine trying to round them all up every day after a few hours of turn out?

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    Senior Member SavvySonny's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LateralFlexion View Post
    I agree with you in principle....however regarding the minis... They can easily get fat on just hay, in a harsh winter, being fed three times a day. They really do need dry lot time to maintain a healthy weight.
    Like a horse, minis also should be excersized to be healthy and to stay fit. It is not fair to the mini to just sit in a pasture and go nothing.

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    Senior Member+ LateralFlexion's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SavvySonny View Post
    Like a horse, minis also should be excersized to be healthy and to stay fit. It is not fair to the mini to just sit in a pasture and go nothing.

    True, but they get fat even with exercise and a light diet.

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    I know with my mini, he is on a sparse paddock for maybe 9 hours a day, and is in his large stall for the night, when grass sugers are higher, that allows me to open the gate at night, for my tb mare to go out to the nice grass pasture, they both have free choice hay in the barn...

    I learned the hard way with my old companion pony, that letting the little guys out 24/7 on spring pasture was an instant case of grass founder....

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    Quote Originally Posted by tuckni View Post
    Case #1
    3yr old geld has been out on grass full time till now. Now he is on dry lot. How much time a day should he be out on grass to get what he needs?
    Why is he in a dry lot, and what do you mean by "get what he needs" in reference to the grass?

    Case #2
    8 yr old mini needs to be dry lot. How long can he be out a day?
    "Needs" to be dry lotted means to me that grass is not healthy for him, either due to weight issues, or laminitis and founder issues. If that's the case, then most likely you're talking about hand grazing for 20-30 minutes tops, a day. How long he CAN be out is entirely based on his individual issues. There is a mini farm not far from me and their minis are out all day on really lush pasture, and none of them are fat. Other minis cannot so much as see grass without blowing up.

    Case #3
    Adult horses that have pretty much been in a dry lot now need to be turned out full time. How much time a day and how fast should the time be increased?
    15-20 minutes a day to start. Increase by 15 minutes every 3 days or so unti you're at an hour. Once there for a few days, you can see if 30 minute increases are ok - watch for too-loose manure. Once you're at 4 hours or so, you can see if 1 hour increases are ok. You can split the total time into 2 periods if that helps make the increases easier on your time. That way you'll end up with a few hours in the morning, and at night, and then it will be easy to just have him out all day at some point. Otherwise you're looking at, say, 5 hours in the morning, and have to bring him in in the middle of the day. There's nothing wrong with that, but if being there at 12:00-1:00 is a problem, you can split the times.

    Once you're at 12-15 hours for a week or so, you can usually go right to 24 hours. But again, back off the time if manure that's too runny develops, and go a little more slowly.

    The grass is VERRRRRRRRRRY good, green, thick, lush grass. It is probably the best grass any were ever. No Joke it is on a creek, it stays 1/2 wet and grows all the time. It used to be a hay field and they could get 3 cuttings off it EZ!!! Oh and it is the perfect mix for horse hay 3 gresses and alfalfa.
    So what do you think?
    You need to go read up at www.safegrass.org, especially because of your mini who, by breeding, is prone to insulin resistance.
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    We have found that if our two geldings are allowed on the pasture 24/7 they get way to fat. Our vet recomended to put them in a dry lot with grass hay part of the time and pasture the rest. we bring them in when we go to work for the day where they have fresh water and hay to munch on. When we get home I usually work with them or go for a short ride then they get turned out for the remainder of the day.

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    I introduce my horses to pasture 15 minutes the first couple days, then a half hour for a couple days, then 1/2 increases until we are up to three hours. Usually, once at three hours, they are ok for longer periods of time, but that depends on the horse and the grass and the temperature and the rain.

    I asked a similar question (regarding how long a horse should be out on grass to get "what he needs") just yesterday. My horses were way overweight. I was putting them out for a couple hours in the a.m. then a couple in the p.m.and locking them up at night. I thought 4-5 hours per day was about right (they were losing weight -- but we were also riding them more often), but several horse people told me they were too fat and should not be out on grass until their weight was under control, or should only be turned out with grazing muzzles for a couple hours a day -- no hay, no ration balancer, nothing else. We can't use grazing muzzles (the break away part breaks all the time) so we put them out, bring them in, put them out, bring them in. But one person told me an hour in the morning, and hour in the evening and no hay! That just doesn't sound right to me.

    I cannot let these horses graze 24/7 until the grass is less rich. They are terribly easy keepers. These horses got fat on 10# of hay per day over the winter (in really cold weather it was 15# each).

    I did get the following response in another forum -- it looks like 30 pounds of grass is appropriate for 1000# horse. This article is more about how many horses you can put on a pasture, but it gives an idea regarding how much grass they need.

    Grazing Strategies for Horse Pastures
    Warm weather and green grass gets us itching to turn-out! However, improper grazing can turn you’re knee high grass lot into a dust bowl over run with weeds. Take the time to plan a grazing system for your property. Maintaining the grass population will not only be aesthetically pleasing, it will be a sustainable pasture that can provide nutrition and exercise areas for your horse and will ensure the value of your property remains high.
    A horse will utilize about 3% of its body weight per day of pasture forage by eating, trampling or otherwise damaging. An average horse of 1,000 lbs will utilize 30 lbs of pasture forage per day. Can your pasture grow enough mass to support your horse or horses? How long can you graze your pasture? These questions can be answered with a few calculations.
    Available Forage
    Determine how much forage your pasture produces by performing clippings. Choose a location in your pasture that would represent the average production of the entire pasture. Clip an area about 30 inches in diameter to ground level. Keep only the actual forage; discard litter, roots, weeds and soil. Place the sample into a brown paper bag and let air dry for 2-4 days. Once dry (forage should look like hay), weigh the sample (be sure to subtract the weight of the bag). You can repeat the sampling over several locations in the pasture and calculate an average weight. Multiply the average sample weight by 20. This measurement is the total pounds of forage per one acre pasture. Next, multiply the total pound of forage per acre by the total number of acres in your pasture. Keep in mind that not all of the forage is available for grazing. Horses will otherwise damage forage by trampling, defecating, ect. If you have dryland pasture, multiply the total amount of forage by 0.25, irrigated multiply by 0.35.
    Take into consideration the productivity of you pasture will change over the course of the season. Your samples may not be representative of the pasture in late summer if they were taken in early spring. Adjust your grazing strategies accordingly.
    Number of Horses OR Duration of Grazing
    Knowing the available forage and using the “rule of thumb” that horses will utilize about 30 lbs/d can help you determine the carrying capacity (number of horses your pasture can support) and also the number of days (or hours) your horse will be able to graze. Thus, grazing systems can be tailored to your available resources.
    Number of Horses Pasture can Support
    Amount of forage (lbs/d) available for grazing ÷ Length of time (days) horses will graze
    30 lbs forage per horse
    Length of time horse can graze (days)
    Amount of forage (lbs/d) available for grazing
    ( 30 lbs/horse X Number of horses)
    To calculate the number of hours a horse can graze, convert your days to hours and replace this figure for amount of forage (lbs/d). Horses will graze for 9-14 hours a day. Therefore, an average 1000 lb horse will eat roughly 2.5 to 3.5 lbs of forage per hour. (30lbs / 9hrs=3.5 lbs/hr and 30lbs / 14hrs=2.5 lbs/hr).
    Grazing Systems for Horses
    Grazing systems or strategies are very important tools that will ensure the health of your grass. The smallest of acreages can benefit from implementing a system and managing grazing frequency, duration and intensity. There is a tendency for horse pastures to become overgrazed. Horses have the ability to be very selective in the plants they choose to eat. As a result, horses often eat the same plant population over and over again, weakening the plant root structure and severely limiting its ability to recover or cause death of the plant. This often opens the pasture up of weed invasion and erosion. Grazing should occur when plants have reached a height of 6-8 inches and should cease when plants have been grazed to 3-4 inches in height.
    Continuous Grazing
    Horses have unlimited access to pasture of the course of the grazing season. This strategy is not recommended for horses in small pastures. Again, this goes back the horse’s ability to selectively graze their favorite plant population.
    Partial-season Grazing
    Horses graze a pasture for a limited time during a certain period of the grazing season. Spring grazing takes advantage of new growth. Fall grazing will take advantage of stockpiled forages (forages that have grown tall and not been
    previously grazed). This strategy reduces the risk of overgrazing. The time of season the pasture is grazed will affect its carrying capacity and nutritional value.
    Limited Turnout Time
    Horses graze the pasture for short periods of time (1/2 hr to 12 hrs) each day. Dry lot or stalls are utilized when grazing is not allowed. This strategy can greatly increase how long forage is available over the course of the grazing season and decrease the amount of hay that would need to be fed if horses were continuously in drylot. For example, if a horse grazes spring pasture for 1 hour, the amount of grass hay provided could be decreased by 2.75 lbs. Likewise, if a horse grazes summer pasture for 1 hour, the amount of grass hay provided could be decreased by 1.75 lbs. This system is very flexible and is highly recommended for properties owners with limited amount of pasture.
    Rotational Grazing
    Horses are moved or rotated from one pasture to another over the course of the grazing season. It is often beneficial to divide large pastures into smaller pastures to maximize grazing efficiency. For example, a 9 acre pasture is divided into 3, 3 acre pastures often referred to as cells. Horses are turned out into the first cell, allowed to graze until forage is 3-4 inches tall and then rotated to the next cell. Rotation into the third pasture will occur when growth in the 2nd cell is 3-4 inches in height. Horses can be returned to any one of the cells if re-growth is sufficient for grazing (6-8 inches in height). This grazing system can be used in conjunction with limited turnout time.
    Proper grazing can benefit your horse and your pasture. Graze plants to the proper height and allow the plant time to recover and re-grow before grazing again. Limit selective grazing of the horse by confining horses to small pastures or cells. The most important thing to remember is not to graze by the calendar, graze according to your plant health. Finally, if your pasture can not support the number of horses you already have, make arrangements to dry lot the horses, don’t sacrifice your pasture, your horse health and the value of your property.
    Barbi Riggs

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