Ask the Expert: When to Start Grazing

When to Start GrazingQuestion:  I’ve heard conflicting recommendations on when to start grazing my horses.   Is April 1st too early to start grazing?
Answer:  Spring grazing should be introduced slowly and delayed until grasses reach 6 to 8″ to optimize both the health of the horse and pasture.  Calendar date is not important as weather conditions and grass growth can very greatly from year to year.

When pastures reach 6 to 8″, begin grazing for 15 minutes, increasing the grazing time each day by 15 minutes until 4 to 5 hours of consecutive grazing is reached. After that, unrestricted or continuous grazing can resume.

We also recommend feeding horses their normal hay diet before turning them out to pasture during the first several grazing events of the year.  This strategy should help avoid rapid intake of pasture grasses.

Even though hay and pasture are both forms of forages, there are significant differences. A gradual change from one feedstuff to another provides enough time for the microbial populations to adjust, reducing the chance of colic and laminitis.

This article is reprinted with permission from Krishona Martinson, PhD, University of Minnesota. This and other horse nutrition articles can be found at

6 Replies to “Ask the Expert: When to Start Grazing”

  1. 5-6″ Tell me where that grass is? We have invasive Bermuda and are lucky if it grows 1-2″. Plus the weeds which will grow up to 5″. We flood irrigate every 2 weeks. I started late April for only 15 min and worked my way up to only 1-2 hours early morning before 10 am. After that, the sugars soar. I move them into the riding arena which has 1 ” grass with 1 pound of Teff hay for another 2-3 hours, then they come in to have their wet meal and 4 pounds of teff hay. I let them back out at 5 pm in the arena for playtime and bring them in about 6:30 pm for the evening. One is a Mustang and the other is a Draft gypsy. They both get fat way to easy.

  2. I depends on different forage you all you just cant 6 to 8
    But Bermuda will grow 6 to 8 inches you just have to be patient I lived in Oklahoma southwest and the Northeast Oklahoma Lawton and grandlake

  3. My horses are on pasture year round. We have 40 acres of burmuda grass, forbes & flowers in 3 fenced pastures. We supplement with good quality hay in winter. I have a 16 h QH and a 15h Arabian. They get Nutrena regular feed and skin and coat supplement. After years using various feeds, no other compares to Nutrina! They have beautiful glossy coats. They only come into barn when they want and that is usually during severe wind or storms. People comment on how healthy they are. They just need more riding time.
    We have a working bee farm, and natural habitat for birds and butterflies.
    Their is no way I would have time to move them into different pastures all during the day. Is this not good for my horses?

    1. Hi Judy Kay,
      We are so happy to hear that Nutrena products are working great for your horses! It sounds like you are doing everything right, as long as your horses continue to maintain an ideal Body Condition Score and are looking healthy, keep on track!

      Best of luck!

  4. We have one horse and live in Wisconsin. We have two areas for grazing. How often should we be mowing? My husband mows it on a regular basis. Should we be leaving it longer and at the same time or switch off every other time? It never seems to get real long,but she has trouble keeping up with it.

    1. Hi Jill,
      Thanks for your comment! It may warrant trying to mow at the same time if your horse can’t keep up with the amount of grass provided.

      Best of luck!

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