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Horse welfare and health in pastures

Pasturing has significant role for horse sozialisation and well-being created by social behaviours. When horses are released grazing in the early summer in large herds, they get to train group behaviors. Also the freedom of movement and good nutrition increase horse welfare.

Changes in feeding and the lush vegetation in pasture in early summer  can cause health problems for the horse. It is necessary to accustom the horse to grazing by feeding fresh grass gradually. Some horse breeds and individuals have a tendency to gain weight easily. Obesity can predispose the horse to serious health risks. Common triggering factor of laminitis is a strong grazing, where the horse gets a lot of rapidly digestible sugars, starch and fructan.

Before grazing season horse teeth should be rasped. For grazing horses it is also particularly important to have protection against tetanus. Deworming is also a good to do before grazing season, in order to keep the pasture cleaner. Deworming also after the grazing season prevents especially the development of tapeworms in the insestine during the winter.

Cleaning up the manure from pastures every other week prevents the parasite eggs in feces to develop to transmissible worms. Systematic rotation and cleaning mowing will not only ensure a good regrowth of the grass, but also prevent the spread of parasites. Horses should not be kept in summer pastures at other times of the year.

Even small wounds and scabs in legs should be examined and treated well, as the horse is sensitive to lymphatic infection. Especially at the beginning of the grazing season accidents are common, when horses get wild or solve the group hierarchy.

If the horse does not eat and drink at all, call a veterinarian immediately. Similarly, in the event of accidents with excessive bleeding, fracture, or the possibility of joint injuries. The veterinarian must be called also if the horse is just lying on the ground and does not react on the environment, or it appears to be in severe pain .

If the pasture offers enough suitable feed and water, horse will not usually eat poisonous plants or drink contaminated water. Horse selects edible plants by smell, taste and experience, but their ability to distinguish and choose the edible plants can be individually varied. Plant toxicity may be different for different parts of the plant and also vary with plant's growth phase.

Horses have to be checked at the pasture at least twice a day. At the same time when observing that the animals are well, check also water and fences. When you visit the pasture, make a note of horses' resting times and places, the way of movement and behaviours. This makes it easier to notice when there occurs something different in horses' actions.


The horse and human safety in pastures

In general, the most dangerous situations in pastures are caused by frightened horse. Problems can arise if you do not know how to predict this. The horse's behavior may change when it grazes in a new herd or it is brought to a completely new environment. As herdanimals, horses reflect easily the state of fear of one herd member, when all the members of the herd may be nervous. Horse's behavior is affected very substantially their age and gender.

In particular supplementary feeding, getting out a single horse from the pasture or a similar situation, where the hierarchy of the herd is significant, can lead to accidents. Horses' home, the stable, should not be located close to the pasture on the other side of the road. The horses may run away and try to get in to the stable, especially at the beginning of the grazing season, which results dangerous situations on the road and in the region. Horses also easy test the resistance or electricity of the fences when the feed in pasture decreases or runs out.

Fencing must be secure and strong, and it should be checked on a daily basis.



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