Grazing management is cost-effective and healthy for horses. Two acres per horse is ideal. Different regions have their own recommendations for healthy pastures. Horses should graze rich areas and defecate in rough areas. Manure collection is important, and pastures should be rotated. Different seasons bring different concerns and guidelines for grazing management. After the last spring frost, pastures should be cleared and rested for 6 weeks. It’s important to have sacrificial areas and do a first cut before reintroducing horses to pastures. Grazing management is important to protect horses’ future.
Grazing management for your horse is one of the most cost-effective strategies you can adopt. Healthy pastures can save you time and worry. A minimum of two acres per horse is ideal.
Different regions dictate their own recommendations for healthy pastures. Overall, a compliment of Kentucky bluegrass, timothy, clover and alfalfa are an ideal combination. While the clover and alfalfa are legumes and high in protein, the fibrous bluegrass and timothy will help balance out the richness.
If given enough space, horses will use their instincts for grazing management. They graze rich areas of pasture and defecate and urinate in rough, weedy areas. This natural behavior controls the parasite population in wild horses.
Grazing management should include manure collection. This should be done every day or at least weekly. If you choose to haul your pastures with a harrow instead, those areas must be closed for a minimum of a week to ten days, longer if the weather is cooler. It’s wise to separate pastures into sections and rotate horses accordingly.
Each season brings with it different concerns and guidelines for grazing management and affluence. As a general rule, morning and evening herbs will be higher in sugar very soon. Herbs that have been subjected to frost can cause gastrointestinal upset. This is especially important to keep in mind if you have a horse prone to founder.
Fall’s declining pastures can inspire your horse to sample plants it would normally resist. This puts him at risk of plant poisoning. Some plants are at their most toxic levels during this time of year, such as nettles, white snakeroot, and the toxic fungus that can infest ryegrass. We recommend checking with your local extension office for a list of poisonous plants in your area.
New spring grasses are very high in carbohydrates and should be balanced by supplementing them with grass hay. Herbs respond to cold by increasing their levels of simple sugars and reserve carbohydrates. This helps protect plant cells from freezing, but is hard on your horse’s digestive system.
One of the most important times for grazing management is after the last spring frost. This is the time to clear the pastures of the winter months. Remove the remaining manure, add a thin layer of compost to areas that appear to be deficient, and let the pastures rest for about 6 weeks during the spring rainy season. This allows your pastures to regenerate and also protects the foundation of your land.
During this grazing rest period, most find it beneficial to have a few small sacrificial areas for your horse’s outcome. Due to the high carbohydrate content of your spring grasses, it is advisable to do a first cut before reintroducing your horses to their pastures. This is especially true if you have sensitive horses with delicate digestions.
Once you become familiar with grazing management concepts, routines will blend naturally with the dictates of the seasons. With growing demand for farmland and rising crop prices; hay and pastures are scarce. This factor in itself is an important reason to take grazing management seriously and protect your horse’s future.