In many parts of the country, dormant winter forages will soon transition to lush, green grass. As seasons change, forage growth accelerates and ingestion of fructan-rich grasses increases. While overindulgence of fructans can be problematic for certain horses, owners can take steps to ensure a seamless changeover in forage consumption.
Even the healthiest of horses may encounter digestive disturbances associated with fast-growing grasses and overconsumption. Overweight horses and ponies with insulin resistance are particularly susceptible to high-fructan grasses. The amount of fermentable carbohydrates, including fructans, in lush pasture often overwhelms the gastrointestinal tract, escaping digestion in the small intestine and passing to the hindgut. These carbohydrates or sugars are then processed in the hindgut, setting the stage for hindgut acidosis and potentially resulting in laminitis and colic.
Choose EquiShure to reduce the risk of hindgut acidosis escalating to laminitis in horses grazing high-fructan pastures or receiving significant intakes of starch-laden grains, including those at risk for or with a history of laminitis.
Horse owners can also restrict free grazing during times when fructan levels are likely to be elevated, beginning with several short grazing sessions each day and gradually increasing length and number. Using a grazing muzzle to slow grass consumption, keeping the horse in a drylot for part of the day, and continuing to offer hay in addition to pasture are additional ways to provide more dry matter and limit the intake of fructans.
Kentucky Equine Research (KER) is an international equine nutrition, research and consultation company serving both the horse producer and the feed industry. Its goal is to advance the industry's knowledge of equine nutrition and exercise physiology and apply this knowledge to produce healthier, more athletic horses. For more information, see www.ker.com or call 888-873-1988.