If you own horses, their pasture condition is key to their health and quality of life. Your pasture layout and design, as well as its security, is essential to your ease in maintaining your herd and keeping it safe. You study the form guides to increase your chances of getting the horse racing results you're after. You should invest time in learning about the best ways to create a high-end pasture for the comfort of your horses. Read on to learn some top tips for making your equestrian property the best and most efficient for you and your hoofed crew.
Fencing and Gates
For most equestrian properties you'll likely want to consider two types of fencing: perimeter (estate) fencing and cross fencing, or the fencing you use in the interior of your property to separate herds and to differentiate the functions of various areas such as grazing, boarding paddocks, arenas, and more.
Tubular metal estate fencing with matching gates is a smart choice for your property borders. It can be powder coated for aesthetics and will be virtually maintenance free for many years. Give careful thought to your gates. Think about which way you want them to swing, or have them open parallel to the fence, if possible. Also, if it's not possible to put them on automatic openers, try placing all latches so that you don't have to dismount to open and close them, ideal if you head off your property for a hack on a nearby trail.
As estate fencing is intended to be permanent fencing, use cemented posts at regular intervals and at all corners. Make sure any exposed piping ends have safety caps to prevent impalement injuries. If you are concerned about the safety of your property or own horses of particularly high value, consider using security fencing instead, or for an extra measure of protection.
Your interior fencing, while needing to be strong enough to contain your herds, should give you some flexibility in its arrangement, should you desire to enlarge a paddock or create a seasonal foaling pen.
For many horse owners, traditional post and rail fencing is the most attractive and economical choice for cross fencing. If you have horses that fight or try to mate across fence lines, use alleys between your paddocks or pasture sections to create buffer zones which safer for you as well. Another option is to use electric fencing, which will break away in an emergency but serves as a sufficient deterrent to breaches for most horses.
Even if your horses are stalled at night, you may want to add freestanding shelters to your pasture for protection from the sun, rain and snow. Always have more than one shelter if you have multiple horses, as one dominant horse may prevent others from entering when you have only one shelter. Proper shelter will improve the performance in training and the overall race results of your horses.
Whether you use prefabricated shelters or bespoke ones, make sure they are durable and insulated, preferably with an overhang at the front, such as a field shelter. If you set up your shelters on steel skids as mobile structures, you will not be required to obtain any planning permission, as you would for permanent shelter buildings.
Your pasture planting needs to take into account both your horses' footing and diet, as well as climatic issues for your location. You don't need to be too fussy about the footing, unless you are going to be riding in your pasture. Just be sure to remove any sharp objects or rough stones that could cause hoof injuries. You also want to make sure your horses aren't standing for long periods in boggy areas, as this can precipitate hoof disease.
Of vital importance is to remove any plants that are toxic to horses. If you're not sure how to identify these or how to remove them, consult your local garden center for advice. In some cases, the entire root system may need to be destroyed.
The grasses you plant in your pasture should be appropriate for the sun, shade, and water the area receives, and should be of enough variety to both appeal to your horses and provide a mix of textures and nutrients in their natural diet. If you notice bare spots in your pastures, they may be overgrazed. This means you may need to rotate grazing so fewer horses are eating from the same area or section off spots for no grazing until the grass regrows. It can also mean your horses are showing a preference for certain types of plants over others.
If you lose a large area of pasture to fire, flood or other cause, there are several ways to replace the grass, assuming you do not want to wait for it to regrow on its own. Sod provides you with immediate grass, but it can be quite costly and difficult to maintain until it "takes." Dry seeding is the least expensive option but takes the longest to produce usable pasture. The process of dry seeding itself is slower and more labor intensive.
Hydroseeding, used in residential and commercial properties, is gaining ground with horse owners as an efficient and relatively quick way to replace pasture. A slurry of grass seed and water, along with other agents, is sprayed on the ground by a truck and takes root quickly. Three keys to using hydroseeding for horse pastures are:
- Use a company that has worked with horse owners before and will make your animals a top priority.
- Eliminate any dyes, tackifying agents and endophyte from the spray, as they can be harmful if ingested and the latter can cause sterility.
- Consult with the hydroseeding company to identify a seed mix that is appropriate for pastures, and consider adding your own seed to the mix, if you want a special blend.
Whether you're trying to improve your horse's race results as a Thoroughbred breeder or simply provide a safe and inviting environment for your equine family, using these tips will help create a high value pasture for years to come. Using the best quality materials and thinking ahead about how to plan your pasture will make your life as a horse owner easier and will offer a fine quality of life for your horses too.
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