Well-managed pasture provides the horse with
healthy and economical feed. But horses are bad for pasture - hoof
damage and uneven grazing can quickly turn a field into a worm and
weed infested wasteland. If you are lucky enough to have ample pasture
and to be able to cross graze it with cattle or sheep – these
problems are reduced - but on small acreages, only sound management
and some hard work will suffice.
Just one acre per horse can provide much of a horse's maintenance
for most of the year, if properly managed!
ALL PASTURE CAN BE IMPROVED
1. By correcting acidity and adding a balanced fertiliser if
2. By collecting droppings – at least twice a week. (Not only
will this reduce the worm burden, but it will reduce contamination of
grazing – horses will not graze close to their own droppings.)
3. By topping, several times a year – to control weeds and coarse
4. By dividing a field in two (electric fencing is useful) and
resting and treating one section while the other is in use.)
Costs and Equipment
A tractor or ATV with implements such as a pasture topper, and a
set of chain harrows will make pasture management far easier – or a
local farmer or agricultural contractor may be called in.
If pasture is very 'heavy' – drainage may be a good investment.
Otherwise, horses should be kept off the land when it's very wet –
or be confined to a 'sacrifice' area.
Acidity and Nutrients
Test for acidity and nutrients. Apply lime in the Autumn if the pH
is 6 or less. A suitable compound or organic fertiliser can be used at
the same time, if needed and horses must be kept off the land until
these top dressings have been well washed in by rain.
Farmyard manure provides important nutrients and adds to the
organic matter in the soil, encouraging earthworm activity. It should
be spread in the autumn or over winter when the ground is hard. Horses
should not graze the land for at least two months.
Improving pasture composition
Poisonous weeds (particularly ragwort) should be removed by hand as
it is palatable if sprayed or cut. Other weeds can be controlled by
regular topping – or by spraying with a special herbicide if
infestation is bad.
Bare patches can be reseeded by raking in some grass seed when the
ground is moist – otherwise weeds will move in. On larger areas, a
thorough harrowing, followed by seeding and rolling, will help -
preferably followed by grazing with sheep.
See also: Poisonous plants