My three mares are pretty darn mad at me. They’ve found themselves locked in the paddock every afternoon – out of the grassy field – for many weeks now, and they’re not happy about it.
They’re always in the barn over night, and I let them out early in the morning. They have to walk back to the paddock to get water, and they make the journey a couple of times a day. Once it’s past 1 p.m., and I see them in the paddock, I walk up and lock them in.
The smaller paddock has very little grass, while the field is lush. (On the other hand, the paddock has quite a bit of shade, while the field has little.) Since they’re out about 14 or more hours a day, constant grazing could result in quite a bit of weight gain, especially for the Morgan and Quarter Horse. (The Saddlebred seems to be one of those lucky high-metabolism individuals that doesn’t gain weight quickly, but even she’s looking a little porky right now. Her girth was loosened by a notch.) While they move around the field while they graze, as horses naturally do, it’s just not really “exercise” that will burn many calories. Even their short runs aren’t overly taxing.
If they don’t come up themselves by mid afternoon, I walk out to get them. Unfortunately, they’ve sort of figured that out. We sometimes play the “catch me if you can” game (which totally annoys me). Ultimately, one of them makes a “wrong” turn into the paddock, and I can close the gate. Gotta be quick, though, as Kelsey already figured out what I do, and if she sees me heading to the gate she tries to beat me.
I imagine summer-grass problems are much more stressful if you’re dealing with a horse prone to insulin-resistance and its propensity for laminitis. (It’s not just a case of them “getting used to” the grass either, as you know. For a horse who is insulin resistant, just a little can push them to founder.) I also realize some horses don’t get any grass, so we’re lucky about that, too. But, still, being too fat isn’t good for any body.
So, I tell my girls that when the grass becomes more dry and less abundant, they will spend more time in the big field. But, until then, I’ll be monitoring their weight and grazing hours. Sure wish I had someone who would do that for me.