Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Pasture Problem

One of our many astute readers kindly pointed out errors in in the FHOTD post on pastures

Fugly says...
"There is no hard and fast rule of thumb about how many acres of pasture a horse needs."

Maybe if you are not concerned with your horse's parasite load and the quality of the grazing. A call to your local agriculture branch will give you the horse to acre ratio for your area. Information is available online, as well as other essential pasture considerations, from your Provincial or State agency.

A soil analysis is a good beginning in assessing the quality of your pasture. Many areas lack nutrient which can effect the quality the pasture grass. For example, in areas low in selenium a fertilizer that addresses the deficiency is recommended for pasture land. Another option would be feed a selenium supplement to your horse.

A second consideration is the type of grasses which constitutes the pasture. If these grasses are not of the correct type or ratio it can be detrimental to your horses health. A weedy pasture or an over grazed pasture will be less nutritious than a pasture that has been well cared for.

Fugly's notion of putting horses in an alfalfa pasture is not the best idea. A horses diet needs to be balanced and the high calcium content, without the matching phosphorus content, of alfalfa can cause problems.

To maintain the pasture it is essential, unless the pasture is large enough, that it be rotated. This will allow the grass to recover and the parasites to die off. Manure can contaminant the pasture two to three feet around it. Over the course of month much of the pasture can become contaminated with parasites.

Fugly said...

"By the way, large acreages can present their own problems too! It becomes a lot harder to check horses daily for injuries, maintain fence, watch for the presence of animal holes or other hazards, etc. And of course it is much harder to secure from thieves. I know a lot of people with large properties who keep a smaller sacrifice area down by the barn, and use it as a catch pen. They call the horses down at least once a day and lock them in, usually with a bribe of a few handfuls of grain or some tasty hay that is even more appealing than the pasture. I’ve worked at a place where they ring a bell and everyone comes running – a huge convenience when it is time to ride and you don’t want to hike out over 100 acres looking for your mount, who may otherwise very well toss his head, laugh at you and head for the hills!"

Ridiculous! Train your horses to come when they are called, it's not difficult. Trooper is on 250 acres and comes when he's called. No I don't have to chase him over half the country side to catch him. Large pastures can be checked you just have to get off your butt to do it.


  1. We had our pastures analyzed when we moved here and had to do a big fertilize job to correct things. They came back like gangbusters. Kevin does a wonderful job of bushhogging to keep weed activity down. If the weeds get to a certain point then they turn to seed and make more. The pastures are in so much better shape than when we moved in here. I have to limit Wizard's access because they are so rich in the Spring.

  2. Oh look at me, I am FIRST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. I took the "no hard and fast rule of thumb" at face value. There is no ONE rule for all areas, nor for all horses.

    I'm very new at this whole horse thing, but I know that how much pasture you need per horse has enough variables to drive a newbie crazy. Local climate, type of grass, type of horse you're putting on it, seasonal variations, etc.

    I do find it interesting that Cathy seems to think that all horses should be on rich pasture. My 1/2 lease horse founders if he's left on grass, I know others that blow up and get horribly fat on grass. Simple observation based on less than two years of caring for horses tells me that not all horses should be turned out on grass.

  4. I did get a chuckle out of the comment about having to check large pastures for animal holes...Ummmm...riigghhttt.

    Our horses live in large pastures-120-300 acres...there is absolutely no reason to turn a large pasture into a manicured golf course for your horses. They learn to travel out and to watch where they put their feet, you a horse should?

    Checking fence is not all that hard either. We go around the perimeter once, maybe twice a year. With that much room to roam, horses are not incredibly inclined to hover around the fences, except up by the corrals.

    As far as pasture maintenence, we rotate cattle in and out of the pastures as cattle will eat vegetation and weeds that a horse won't touch.

  5. BEC- Just put GPS on their feet!

    Fugs steps for horse life are...

    1.Analyze every square inch of soil
    2.Any funny soil needs to be taken care of
    3.Ponds are demons! Your horse will die if they drink from one!
    4.If your horse is skinny, orchard grass and some pellets is the cure all. Nothing else will work.
    5.Founder and laminitis are the same thing.
    6.If your horse blinks funny and you don't call a vet, you are an abuser and will be blogged about.
    7. The horse you get must be a rescue or else!
    8. FQH's are the ugliest horses alive. Don't get one or you'll catch the ugly.
    9. Don't ever take pictures unless you are ready for the photographer used at the Olympics equestrian games.
    10. Oh, don't be a re-rider, either. I mean, you could possibly die!

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  7. GoLightly - if you know someone like Dena, by all means send your rescue dollars her way. If you don't, do your research before you pick a registered 501(c)3 rescue to support. I've learned not to rely on an organization's reputation (good or bad), but to go look for myself. So many rescues go through cycles of good and bad management that in June your dollars might be wasted, but by January they'll do some good.

    CinnamonSwirl - I see the same thing in the dog world. "Buying from a breeder is EVIL! All your dogs must be rescues." Makes me crazy - my view is that you should pick the critter that fits your life, not a political agenda.

  8. Yeah. There's a responsible way of picking from a breeder and just plain ignorance. I did have a friend who wanted a 'weenie dog puppy' and while she had the funds for one, she was not a good home for a puppy in the least. I did tell her to rescue one as most were older, had shots, were fixed, and most of all were potty trained. I even found her a nice one that would have fit well with her, but she wanted a puppy... She wanted a certain color, etc. and would take it from the most worthless breeder alive, but a really nice rescued one was off limits. This same girl asked me what AKC papers were and if she needed them if she got the dog. It was head desk worthy and I was happy her parents told her no.

    Heck, I was looking up this breed of cat I just LOVE just to look at some good breeders. I know I don't want a kitten as cute as they are. I don't know how to potty train a cat at all, but I do know how to care for them otherwise if they are. So I looked at their retired cats just to get an idea. It will be a long while before I get one, but I at least had a clue.

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  10. GL,
    The best you can do from a distance is read their annual financial reports to see how they are using their money.

    Can you up date me with the OSPCA issues plskthnxbai.

  11. With horses, I think that the "only buy from a rescue" is bad advice. Rescued horses can come with serious mental and physical issue that are too difficult for an owner to care for over their life. Match the horse to your needs first and get a horse that you can return. Not, all rescues are willing to take back a horse.

  12. GL,
    Are their no rescues in your area that you like?

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  14. CS - I put together a decision matrix for choosing a dog a couple of years ago. I think it would apply reasonably well to horses, with some changes.
    1) If you want a purebred puppy, do your homework, know the breed standard, pick a _good_ breeder, etc...
    2) If you want a puppy but either don't care if it's a purebred or not, or don't want to go to the effort of finding a good breeder, get your pup from rescue.
    3) If you want a dog, get it from rescue.

    For me, as a new horse person, if I were to buy a horse today, it would look something like choice 1 for "purebred puppy", but would read something like: "find mentor to help you pick your perfect horse, do your research regarding riding styles, breeds, temperaments, pay the money to get a well-trained, sane, newbie's horse and board it somewhere that will help you learn horsekeeping while protecting your horse from your lack of experience."

  15. NAF, so, you do not recommend a newbie get a rescue?

    I see Champagne 'til Dawn managed to procreate, before his demise.
    Now that's interesting.
    I don't think he bred a YHI mare. Poor YHI, she's still looking for homes for her horses.
    Sindy Sabre is needing a home.
    Somehow I doubt fugs will help.

  16. GL - I would not recommend a newbie limit her search to rescue horses. You might have noticed that my suggestions for a newbie (as a newbie) did not include _where_ to look. ;-)

    I think it's possible for a good newbie's horse to be found in rescue.

  17. The flip side of that once again the irresponsible are rewarded. And most rescues will stick a newbie with the horse they just couldn't dump on a more experienced person.
    A small breeder, producing quality horses, is where you'll find the fabulous sound horses. That's where you find the breed fanatics that keep the priceless using stock alive, instead of the flavor of the day.
    The unintended consequences of rescue include driving many small breeders out of business because the market is glutted with with broken down OTTB's, lame WP horses, beaten to insanity Arabs, and dangerous nut cases that a newbie should not ever be handling.
    GL...Champ procreated?! With those feet?!

  18. Kes,
    I agree. Unless there's a return policy a newbie will end up with a dangerous horse.

    The other area that you forgot to mention is drafts that have been beat and worked to death or someone forgot to train. You'd be surprised how may draft are out there that barely have basic training. They get big quickly and then everyone is too frighten to train them.

  19. Yes, it's possible for a newbie to find a good rescue horse. I want to see the rescues back up the newbie by being honest about there horses.