Pasture Management FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions – Pasture Management

See also: Pasture Management.

Beneficial Plants.pdf

Poisonous Plants.pdf

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Q. Why is pasture management important?

A. Grazing is a major part of feeding horses. It should form the basis of a horse's diet. Grass and herbage quality and health are therefore of paramount importance to the horse, for his health and well being.

Q. What species of grasses should I have in my horse's pasture?

A. A wide variety of native grasses is important, to allow for the varying nutritional value and growth curves of each species. Variety allows choice and selection of the most suitable material on any single day. The favoured pasture is ancient pasture land, that has not been wrecked by overgrazing or by modern ‘improvement'.

Q. Should I fertilize the pasture?

A. Depending upon the way the grassland is managed, it may need feeding. However, it is important for horse pasture purposes, not to use artificial nitrogen fertiliser on grazing land. This also applies to hay, haylage and other grass products (e.g. grass nuts, grass pellets, grass chaff). The changes brought about by the use of this product are very unhealthy both for the horse and the ground. Useful plant foods to consider are properly composted manure or garden compost, seaweed, calcified seaweed (but check provenance, as some sources are more sustainable than others), ground limestone, ground dolomite or specific trace minerals in their soluble state. If using specialized mineral feeds, these should be selected on an objective basis, according to identified deficiencies.

Q. Should I have herbs in my horse's pasture?

A. A variety of herbs in grassland for horses is very important for several reasons. Biodiversity is improved. Horses can have a selection of different plant material, to suit their needs (see zoopharmacognosy). Different herbs root at a different level and will bring up minerals from deeper in the ground. Grass is usually very shallow-rooted and the soil might quickly become depleted at that depth, were it not for deeper-rooting plants.

Q. Which soil-type is best?

A. The soil type you have is what you have. It is best to suit pasture management to the soil type, if you are to achieve optimum grazing capability for your area or region.

Q. How many horses per acre/hectare?

A. It is important to keep stocking density below the critical level for your ground. This can often mean no more than one horse per hectare, especially if the horse is to be kept ‘out' all year round. We often see over-stocked and over-grazed land, which is neither to the benefit of the horse nor to the benefit of the land and pasture.

Q. What can I do about poaching of the ground?

A. You may not be able to keep your horse ‘out' all year round. You may have to bring him in to a yard, barn or stable, at least for part of the day, especially in wet weather. Poaching will reduce the quality and value of pasture, especially if the poaching is persistent or repeated.

Q. Do I need a field shelter?

A. This depends upon the horse, the ground, the amount of natural shelter from wind and weather and the prevailing climate. It also depends upon the horse, the length of time he is out and whether or not he is rugged. It is good if a horse can have the option of shelter, whether natural or man-made.

Q. Are hedgerows dangerous for my horse?

A. The shelter provided by hedgerows and the wildlife habitat they create are greatly beneficial. Horses also like to browse. However, there are some typical hedgerow plants that are undesirable or downright poisonous for horses. Fortunately, most horses will not go near toxic plants, unless kept chronically short of fibre and food.

Q. Should I pick up dung?

A. If your horse has enough grazing area and especially if cattle, sheep or goats also graze the land, dung picking to reduce the risk of worms is less important. If grazing is tight and if there are no other unrelated herbivorous species (i.e. not meaning donkeys) sharing the ground, then dung-picking provides a useful method of worm control.

Q. How do I control weeds?

A. Weed control strategies depend upon the definition of ‘weed'. Many so-called weeds are, in fact, beneficial to horses (Beneficial Plants.pdf). It may become necessary or advisable to control clover, dock, buttercups etc. It is best to seek specific holistic advice for different problems, since different plants respond to different strategies.

Q. How important is Ragwort?

A. Ragwort is extremely important, on account of its serious capability to poison your horse. It can cause irreversible liver damage. Fresh growing ragwort would almost never cause a problem, because it is unpalatable. However, if the plant is damaged and wilts, it can become attractive to a horse. It can also be very dangerous in hay. Ragwort plants should be pulled up by the roots and burned. Hay ground should be carefully checked before cutting (see Pasture Management – Ragwort).

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