Every horse needs grass or access to some type of forage. Ideally, the more time your horse can spend on pasture, the better. This is not only healthy for them nutritionally, but also mentally and physically. There are bodies that are better off when they can graze regularly. Eating all day is what horses are good at and they enjoy it.
Horses have a remarkably small stomach for their size and multiple small meals per day are ideal for the horse. They are meeting their requirements for these multiple small meals when they are allowed to graze regularly. In fact, horses that are not regularly ridden or worked can survive quite well on pasture and a little grain supplementation to ensure they get essential vitamins and minerals. Some horses may need to be supplemented with round bales of hay and salt licks, especially in the winter months.
In very rare cases, a horse will have colic or sink into the grass. This has nothing to do with whether or not the lawn was recently mowed, that’s just a coincidence in most cases. The horse will sink into the grass if the humidity level is at a certain point and the nights get too cold and the days too hot. The grass will begin to produce a toxin that will cause the horse to stumble. This is extremely rare and most horse owners will not have to worry about it.
One case where grass can harm a horse is in the case of fescue poisoning. Mares that are pregnant should be removed from fescue three months prior to foaling. This poisoning has caused many mares to abort and was something of an epidemic in Kentucky during which numerous mares aborted their foals from fescue poisoning. Pregnant mares are the only horses affected by fescue.
The grass must be well maintained. Fences must be secure and grass must be well cared for and nurtured. There should also be plenty of grass available for grazing horses. A pasture should have ample drainage as a flooded pasture can pose a health risk to horses. Four horses will usually be able to graze well on ten acres. This, however, depends on the weather and the condition of your land. Horses in New Mexico, for example, may need a full square mile for each horse. Paddocks also need to be managed properly. If you can divide a pasture in half for grazing, one side will benefit from not having grazing and give the grass time to rejuvenate and grow. Horses are especially harsh on pasture, as they uproot the grass. On bad grasses, you may need to burn them to encourage new growth. Many even need reseeding.
Allowing your horse regular time to graze is very important to its health and well-being. Even if it’s just half an hour a day, you’ll notice a big difference in your horse’s mood.