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Transition from grass to hay: take it easy!

The days are getting shorter and while the grass is still growing a bit, the nutritional value drops in the fall. It is time to feed and in many cases horses also move to the stable and paddock. This transition can be difficult for horses because they have a very sensitive gastrointestinal system. What can you do to make this transition easier?

In the spring, when the horses go from hay to grass, many horse owners are cautious. Most people know that you have to build up grass consumption slowly to prevent problems with, for example, diarrhea or laminitis. The transition in the ration is also great in the autumn, although not everyone realizes this. It is wise to switch slowly in the fall as well.

Autumn grass and hay

Grass can still contain quite a bit of sugar in autumn, especially when the nights are cold and the days are sunny. But grass contains much less fiber than hay; it consists largely of water. Hay is for the most part fiber and contains much less moisture. An abrupt switch to hay or other roughage can therefore cause constipation colic. Your horse really needs to get used to it again. It is therefore wise to start feeding hay in the meadow a few weeks before horses go from the meadow to the paddock and the stable.

less movement

Due to the transition from pasture to stable, horses often automatically get less exercise. This too can cause constipation. Therefore, make sure that your horse continues to exercise sufficiently in the autumn and winter and certainly during the transition from pasture to stable. For example, by driving more often or taking an extra walk. If you have a horse walker at your disposal, you can also put your horse in it more often, but the best thing is to start moving with your horse yourself.


Intestinal problems in the fall can become more serious as sand builds up in the intestines. This often happens at the end of the period that the horses are in the meadow. Horses are rather sloppy grazers, often ripping grass roots out of the ground when eating. Especially if the grass is short, this can mean that they ingest a lot of sand. Therefore, give a preventive cure with psyllium (flea seed) if the grass is short. Horses also have an increased mineral requirement during the shedding period, which means that there is a chance that horses will eat sand. You can overcome this by timely adding silicon or minerals from the Bering Sea.

Prevent relapse?

Some horses experience a decline in muscle mass and health when transitioning to paddock and stable. Make sure that there are enough vitamins and minerals in your horse’s ration. The most convenient is a balancer chunk that contains the daily amount of vitamins and minerals. In addition, horses that are a bit older may have an extra need for protein. They get it out of the grass in the summer. The intake of vitamin A and vitamin E is also lower when a horse is off the grass. Carrots and a vitamin E supplement can offer a solution for this.

You may have heard it on social media, but the roughage of 2022 appears to be extremely low in protein. It may therefore be advisable for working horses to add extra protein, for example in the form of coconut fibers or via protein flakes.

What to do in case of digestive problems?

When transitioning from grass to hay, keep a close eye on your horse. Check the manure on sand and see if the manure balls are not too dry. If you have colic, you should of course call the vet. Do you want to support your horse to keep its digestive system healthy? Then consider a special cure with herbs such as hawthorn, yellow gentian, wormwood and cat’s claw. These herbs promote a good intestinal flora, purify the blood and thus contribute to a healthy digestion.

Autumn = time for detox

For many horses it is a good idea to give a short detox course twice a year: in the spring and autumn. A detox ensures that waste products are removed and gives your horse’s immune system a boost. The herbs support the cleansing effect of the liver and kidney function. A detox extract for horses usually contains milk thistle, supplemented with, for example, turmeric, boldo and artichoke. Note: A detox is only suitable for healthy horses! Horses that are prone to laminitis or are overweight should not be given a detox. Pregnant mares and horses with PSSM or horses that are sensitive to muscle laminitis should not receive a real detox. You can give these horses a milder cure. Nettle extract is very suitable for this.

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