Horse Pasture Preservation

Use a rotation system to prevent overgrazing.

You rotate the tires on your car to get the best use of the tread. By implementing a rotational grazing system in your pasture, you'll get more mileage out of your forages. Overgrazing a pasture stops root growth and diminishes the amount and quality of the grass. It can also result in soil erosion because the grass isn't there to prevent the soil from being blown or washed away. Subdivide large pastures into smaller grazing areas to restrict the amount of time an area is grazed, suggests Dr. Thomas Lenz, a veterinarian with AQHA Corporate Fort Dodge.

Horses are rotated through the cells or paddocks during the grazing season. Each paddock is grazed for a certain period of time, giving the grass in the other cells time to rest and regrow. Follow these rotational grazing bites:

  • Provide at least one acre of good-quality pasture per horse per paddock. Horses should graze the grass in a paddock down to about 2 inches over at least a week's time.
  • Rotate the horses between paddocks to break the life cycle of some parasites.
  • Because horses are spot grazers, there will be some taller grass left after they've been removed from a paddock. Dr. Lenz suggests mowing the taller forage to the height equal to the grazed grass. Drag the paddock with a chain-link harrow to scatter manure.
  • Test the forage to determine if you need to supplement it with grain to meet protein and energy requirements.
  • Fertilize the forage.
  • Because it's moveable, temporary and inexpensive, use electric fencing to divide the pasture into paddocks.
  • Water is the biggest obstacle to developing a controlled grazing system. Try to locate a watering point that's central to all paddocks. Daily water requirement for a grazing horse is 8 gallons.
  • Provide shelter (trees or buildings) in each paddock so the horses can get in out of bad weather and heat.
  • Be willing to change the size of the paddocks, the numbers of animals allowed to graze or the length of the grazing period. Remember, you might need to use supplemental feed or forages.
  • Track the health of your grazing system by keeping records on rainfall, forage testing, grazing periods and fertilizer applications.