Though Tristan’s Cushing’s diagnosis changed many things about the way we managed him, we have so far been generally quite lucky.
He responds well to Prascend, he sheds happily, he maintains his weight just fine. His immune system is shot, and he struggles to keep good muscle on.
One way I’m glad it’s been fairly straightforward is grass. Though Tristan has Cushing’s, he does not have IR, or insulin resistance. They are often paired together, so he might someday develop that, but for right now, though we are careful about what he eats, we are not neurotic about it. He’s never been a horse to get much grain, even at his absolute peak of fitness and work, so keeping him on small amounts of low starch grain is not a hardship.
We are a bit extra careful about him going on grass, still, for two reasons. One is the Cushing’s; he doesn’t get the absolute richest stuff for that reason. The other is his ongoing seasonal allergies, which are probably rooted in his low immunity. Simply put, the horse eats everything. Some of it does not agree with him and causes hives.
At my current barn, there is a slow and careful process to put horses out on grass. I think any responsible horse owner introduces grass in stages, but there is a lot of wiggle room in that. For some people, that’s an hour at a time.
For us, it’s a much more complicated process. I like that about my barn. It appeals to my anxious nature; everything is done carefully, with planning and intention, and with the horse’s welfare as the absolute end goal.
All that is a long way of saying that this week I’ve been hand grazing Tristan in slowly increasing five minute increments. Last Saturday, starting him on five minutes of hand grazing was pretty much the only thing I did the day after my second COVID vaccine shot. Sunday was 8 minutes; Monday was 11 minutes; last night was 11 minutes; tonight will be 15 minutes, and so on. At 30 minutes, he’ll go up to a grass pasture and the add-ons will jump 15 minutes a day, managed by the barn staff.
Some of you are probably reading this aghast. That’s fine. I’m happy with the way the barn takes this slowly, and not every horse gets quite as picky a hand grazing intro as Tristan – we’re extra careful with him (and other horses with a similar profile at the barn).
What about you? Do you go extra-slow or a bit faster or is it something you let your barn manage entirely?