Holistic Guidelines to Keeping your Horse and Ponies on Grass Pastures (Is 1 Acre Enough?)

Horses and ponies are wasteful grazers, stripping the best bits of a pasture and leaving the worst to grow rank and rough.

How many acres of grass pastures do horses and ponies need? 

Depending on the quality of the grazing, horses, and ponies need at least an acre ahead at any one time and can be expected to get through 3 acres ahead on a year-round basis. Ponies will manage on one acre ahead, given good land in a temperate climate. 

Continue reading to know more about the topic!

Table of Contents (Horspedia)

How to Take Care of a Horse Pasture?

Ideally, three paddocks should be used in turn for 4 or 8 months each on a 1- or 2-year cycle, allowing the pasture to rest and grow and for a hay crop to be taken off it as food for the following winter. 

How Rotation Grazing can Help Take Care of a Horse Pasteur?

Rotation grazing with cattle or sheep permits the pasture to be evenly cropped and prevents the grass from becoming “horse sick” with worm parasites not harmful to other animals.

Pasture grazed solely by horses soon becomes rank through droppings laid regularly in the same areas. In addition, it encourages the growth of nettles and thistles and other unwanted weeds. 

If rotation grazing with other animals is not practicable, this can be controlled by the daily gathering of the droppings (laborious). Or by regular use of a brush harrow to disperse the droppings and cut with a gang mower to top the weeds.

The principles of grazing are not yet entirely understood, and grazing will probably be produced in the future that will allow the horse to thrive on smaller acreage. 

Why Horse Grazes Selectively on a Pasteur?

Anyone who has watched a horse grazing in a varied pasture will know that it grazes selectively, picking dandelions, briar shoots, plantains, all the things that we call “weeds” – to satisfy its palate. 

This has to do with the different trace elements in plants, which are brought to the surface by the varying depths of the roots and growth conditions.

It is even now imperfectly understood by farmers who plant a mixture of Bennett’s grass and clover in the belief that they plant the best.

It is as if a conquering Martian, observing only British motorway food, thought that his captives would thrive on an exclusive diet of sausage, egg, and chips. “Grazing” does not depend on grass alone but on a mixture of “weeds” that the horse can select according to its particular need.

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How to Keep a Horse Safe in a Pasture?

Fencing must be sound. If hedges surround the pasture, they should be stiff enough to stop the horse from walking through. Barbed wire is undesirable because of its damage to an animal, but it is sometimes unavoidable. 

In such cases, the owner should ensure that it is stretched tight so that the horse’s legs cannot become entangled. 

Gates should swing easily to their gate posts, allowing plenty of passage room for an excited horse, and fastenings should be secure against the most curious and inventive of the breed. 

Are Shelter and Water needed for Horses on Green Pastures?

Some shelter is needed as a windbreak in the foul weather-any three-sided wooden shed will do, provided that the back of it stands against the coldest wind- and shade in summer paddocks can be got from the same shelter or from a tree or tall hedge. 

The owner should regularly inspect the pasture for hazards such as: 

  • loose wire, 
  • broken glass, 
  • or tin that could cause injury.

Also, hedges should be kept free of poisonous plants such as deadly nightshade and yew.

If there is not a clear stream in the field, freshwater must be provided. A self-filling water tank is the most convenient in cases where the pasture is handy to main drains. 

Otherwise, an old tank prevents the need for daily refilling but needs emptying and scrubbing out at least once a week to keep the water from becoming stale. 

A constant supply of fresh water is vital to a horse’s health. In addition, a lump of rock salt left in the field to supplement the inadequate mineral content most grazing is also desirable.

How to Take Care of Native Ponies in Grass Pasture?

In the case of native ponies, stabling is unnecessary even in the most brutal winter. Native ponies are healthier, living out all year round, and are not as susceptible to the coughs and colds caused by the drafts and stuffiness endured by stabled animals. 

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However, the ponies at grass pastures is instinctively greedy through centuries of having had to scratch a living from poor-quality terrain. 

In spring and summer, when the rich grass comes up, a pony should be watched very carefully-instinct will tell it to stuff itself while the opportunity lasts, and the result is often laminitis, an inflammation of the spongy membrane inside the hoof. 

Laminitis is extremely painful – in severe cases, the sufferer has to be destroyed – and a grass-fed animal that shows signs of getting too fat must have its food restricted.

Stable it during the day (a practice sometimes also necessary to prevent torment from flies) and/or pasture it on poorer grazing.

Taking Care of Grass Pasture Horses in Winter

Even though it does not work, the grass-fed horse should be given as much hay as it will eat in winter. As the grass dies down during the fall and the feed value lessens, start with a quarter of a bale (approximately 14lb) at night and feed more if the animal eats it up. 

Double the quantity and double the feeding times when snow covers the grass. A hay net is an economy, as horses trample hay fed loose, but the hay net should not be tied too high as hayseeds will fall into the horse’s eyes, causing irritation. 

A hayrack fixed at the height of a horse’s head, and installed in its shelter, is ideal for prevention against irritation of eyes and against the waste of hay through being soaked by rain. If the horse must be fed under the open sky, its favorite place in the field is the best site for the economy of fodder. 

How Long to Keep a Horse Feeding on a Grass Pasture?

If the grass-fed horse or pony is in regular work, it needs a daily feed or two of nuts or oats mixed with chaff and bran, dampened slightly to bind it and keep down any possible dust that could get into its lungs. 

Extra feeding of this kind varies with the amount of work required of the animal and the rider’s competence who will sit on its frisky back. Grated or chopped carrot, root vegetables, or apples mixed into the feed are healthy variations, and horses respond to the consideration of being given extras of this sort.

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How do I Keep a Pasture Horse Clean?

Animals kept at grass will stay perfectly healthy without grooming. Indeed, the protective grease must be left in their coats so that rain, cold, and heat do not harm them. It is enough to brush off unsightly mud with a dandy brush and tidy up the mane and tail before exercise. 

What is most necessary is to pick out the horse’s feet each day to remove stones picked up in the pasture and check the hooves’ condition. 

Hooves grow about half an inch a month, and regardless of wear, shoes should be removed and refitted every four to six weeks to prevent the hoof wall from splitting.

Unshod horses, even though unused, need regular attendance from the farrier if their feet are to be kept in good health.

How to Take Care of a Pasture Horse | Final Thoughts

A horse is only as good as its feet. A bruised sole or frog, a stone caught in the lateral cleft of the frog, or bruises or cuts on the bulbs of the heels can and will cause lameness. Therefore, care should be taken when riding a horse on stony ground. 

Excessive wear to the bearing edge in the unshod horse should be avoided, as should splitting the hoof wall. Sand cracks running downwards from the coronet – will cause lameness if deep enough to touch the laminae. 

Laminitis – inflammation of the laminae-is not uncommon in ponies on rich pasture, and in extreme cases, can cause the coffin bone to drop through the wall of the foot.

Navicular disease, a corrosive ulcer on the navicular bone, is incurable.

Pastured horses should never be turned loose with the sweat still wet on them as they can easily catch a chill. At the end of the exercise, a safe practice is to walk the last mile home to ensure that the horse is cool and dry before releasing it.