Reintroducing to grass

Julie Davie

A couple of years ago when I had an injured knee and subsequent knee surgery, Porter got fat.  We tested him and his inuslin was high normal.  After I recovered and resumed normal riding (plus lunging for 10 minutes to get his cresty neck down--something the vet had learned from a webinar for vets), we retested him and he was low normal.  For the 7 years prior to my injury Porter was out on pasture 24/7 and kept a normal weight.  I would never return him to 24/7 pasture because his metabolism has likely slowed down due to age. He looks great now.  Taped him at about 780 yesterday and he's 14 hands.   I would like him to be able to have some pasture--maybe 2 to 4 hours a day.  The vet is suggesting that I work him up to the number of hours I'd like to see him grazing and then, after he's done that for maybe 4 days, retest his insulin level.  It's probably going to take me a few weeks to get at that point.  I'm worried about laminitis before we test him.  How fast could it come on?  I don't want to do this until our rains are over and the grass has been cut and dried out some.  Thank you!
Julie D OR 2021

Eleanor Kellon, VMD

I wouldn't cut the grass. Tall mature grass is the safest. What were his actual insulin numbers? The safest time to graze is immediately after work.
Eleanor in PA 
EC Owner 2001

Sherry Morse

Hi Julie,

I would consider muzzling him and no cutting of the grass as that would cause it to be more stressed.  I would also consider testing his insulin BEFORE putting out on grass so you know where you're starting.  If his insulin is already elevated on just hay you wouldn't want to risk setting off a time bomb by putting him on grass.


Good to know..about exercise and grazing! Thanks.
Chatycady in the Midwest 2022


I just got insulin level back on my pony, after being high since last fall, it is now at 40.89 with no grass and exercise 5 days a week/trail riding 5-6 miles per day.  I’ve let my pasture grow since spring.  Grass and weeds are very tall.  Should I chance turning her out with a muzzle?

Janet in Ohio

Janet M. OH 2021

Sherry Morse

Hi Janet,

If you completely seal the muzzle you can take that chance but without a case history we have no idea of the history on this pony and can't really offer you any advice other than 'most IR horses need to be off of grass forever.'  I personally would be concerned about the insulin still being so high with no grass and in that much exercise.