Allowing horses to graze on unkempt grasslands may cause problems. Many plants are poisonous. Management practices will assist a horse pasture owner to assure top notch grazing land. An owner should provide each 1,000 pound horse with two acres of land for foraging if most of the horse’s nutrition will be derived from the land. Less productive soil could require as much as five acres per horse. Only one acre may be necessary, if the land is managed well and utilized only for supplemental grazing.
- Testing Soil and Applying Fertilizer: Soil inside the pasture should be tested for nutrient levels. Check with a local extension office or analytical laboratory for testing assistance. Test results may reveal that lime should be applied along with fertilizer yearly. Late Fall is the best time to apply fertilizer. Fertilizer applied at the dormant above ground stage will result in grasses with better root systems. Summer drought spells require grasses with well-developed root systems to thrive.
- Restoring Grass Cover: High traffic areas along fences and gates will require grass cover restoration. The first step to restore grass cover is to fill eroded areas in the pasture and depressions with topsoil. Replenish an existing pasture, by over-seeding with a cool season grass mix during the late Summer or early Fall. Some people prefer a seed spreader, drill seeder or even hand broadcast the seeds. If extensive soil preparation is required, the soil must be frequently watered and covered with straw to germinate properly.
- Separate the Pasture into Smaller Fields: Consider renovating the pasture in sections to keep the horses off the field during recovery. Cross fences should be installed to separate the field into smaller sections to rotate grazing. Long fields function best for horse pastures. The long fields allow the horses plenty of room to run or gallop at fast speeds.
- Effective Weed Control: Weed identification is the primary step in eradication. Fertilization, liming and controlled grazing generates an environment for ideal grasses to sprout instead of weeds. Compost horse manure, select high quality seed, and mow the weeds, before the plant reaches the seed stage to help control the spread of weeds. EPA approved herbicides may be required, but should be researched and utilized during the appropriate life cycle of the weed for proper elimination.
These four best management practices will assure a nutritional and safe pasture for horses. The horses will stay healthy and happy. The beauty of the pastures will also be a treasure for everyone to behold.
Photo is courtesy of Horse in Pasture as uploaded by Fritzmb from Flickr’s Creative Commons.
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