By Kentucky Equine Research Staff · March 6, 2012
Horse owners and farm managers frequently use the word “lush” to describe the state of pasture forage as it begins to grow rapidly in the spring. Just exactly what does “lush” mean? Is this new grass good for horses, or dangerous for them to graze?
In defining “lush,” the dictionary uses words like “growing vigorously; lavishly productive; thriving; plentiful; delicious; savory.” Lush pasture, then, is a grazing area with plenty of abundant green forage that tempts horses to graze enthusiastically for hours on end.
Lush new spring grass, mature summer grass, and dried autumn grass contain the same basic ingredients--water, vitamins, minerals, protein, starch, and structural fiber among other things—but the proportions of these ingredients are far different depending on season. Spring grass grows very rapidly, containing a large proportion (up to 80% or more) of water. This grass is generally soft and easy to chew because the amount of indigestible fiber is less than in mature grass.
Because there is so much liquid in new spring grass, all the other components are found in lower proportions compared to mature grass, so the horse gets less starch per mouthful of grass than when grazing in the summer. However, because this soft grass is so palatable, horses tend to ingest a larger overall volume of forage, so their intake of all nutrients may actually be fairly similar in spring, summer, and early fall.
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