This has been a crazy spring weather wise here in upstate New York. In March we had a gorgeous week of 70° temperatures with lots of lovely sunshine. Then, a week later, we were in the 20s and it was snowing.
Why do I care? I have three equines who can be considered founder-prone. Sugar, the older donkey had foundered mildly sometime before she joined our family. Spice, her daughter, foundered a couple of years ago during a very lush spring. Frodo, the mini horse, is founder-free so far but certainly on the list of potential candidates.
We have the enviable position of having more pasture than we do livestock. The six equines plus 1 goat and six sheep don’t come close to eating our grass down. This is great for them nutrition wise, but for the three small equines, a real risk for founder. So during the late fall, winter and early spring, Frodo, Sugar and Spice get to be out in the 10-acre field with the sheep. They, well OK, mostly Frodo J, love running around the pasture. They all get to graze and do just fine even if the grass isn’t at top nutritional value then.
The three “real” horses love their 20-acre pasture and eat at will with no problems.
Once the grass really starts growing, the three small equines end up confined in the barnyard, which is a semi dry lot. Then I don’t have to worry about grass founder. The two younger equines still have some room to romp and play though I think they both miss chasing the sheep a bit.
So, here is my conundrum. When do I “lock them up”? I want them to have the freedom of the big field as long as possible, but I don’t want any health consequences. Once I figure I need to mow, is that time? Can I hold off until the field actually “looks” green? I generally err on the side of caution, so the trio will be shut in starting this week.
While some of you have had similar concerns I am sure, it is worse if you are a veterinarian. I KNOW the risks and dangers, can picture the damage clearly and yet, still, a part of me says, they should get to be free as long as possible.
I thought about trying to plant crab grass – hoping the equines wouldn’t be fond of it. Considering the donkeys eat thistles that is probably not realistic. The gentleman at the feed store thought I was “ a bit off” just for asking!
I have looked at grazing muzzles, but I admit to being nervous about trying them. Knowing the eating capabilities of these three, I suspect they could consume founder causing quantities of rich grass even with one.
You might suggest that one could limit their time out in the big field. Having had to try and catch Frodo out in the field more than once, I don’t really need that much exercise. He is clever and generally comes when called, but the lure of grass versus being caught? Not really a choice in his mind.
So how do you handle the conundrum of founder prone equines and the lure of the pasture?