It's common knowledge that horses tend to destroy their pastures and if left without the proper maintenance and care, paddocks can become “horse sick”. If this does happen, then it defeats the object of turning horses out to stretch their legs, gad about and eat the goodness in the grass. To keep paddocks and therefore, pastures in top condition takes a bit of planning, and once a program is set in place, it needs to be put into practice.
If you set up a paddock maintenance routine and then stick to it, you have the peace of mind the pasture your horse is turned out onto, offers all the goodness and nutrients they need to stay healthy.
It is hard to put a fixed budget on maintaining great quality grass but whatever money is spent on grazing land, is greatly compensated by improved health married to much appreciated lower feed and vet bills. This goes hand in hand with your horse feeling that much better, therefore their performance improves as well. Over-grazed pasture which is poorly managed, often leads to situations which are best avoided.
A well thought out paddock maintenance plan which incorporates resting the pasture as part of a rotation, is the key to successfully managing it. Daily collection of horse droppings has to be part of the routine, and many people do conscientiously pick up their horse manure each and every day - even though it can be quite a chore. The reason being that maintaining a “clean” pasture is essential to your horse's health.
If you have to keep on top of larger paddocks and fields where several horses are turned out to graze, then picking up droppings by hand is an impossible task which is why many people now use machines to make the job a lot easier and less time consuming.
These days there are some very innovative systems not only for collecting and picking up horse droppings but to mow the grass too. These systems can be easily pulled by a quad bike which is an added bonus because there is less risk of damaging the paddocks, a scenario which all too often occurs when heavier machines are used for the job. Paddock maintenance is made that much easier with these Tow and Collect systems and because it is easier, the task does get done.
Another key factor to pasture maintenance is choosing the right sort of fertiliser to use on the land and the same goes for any products to keep unwanted weeds down. When using any sort of herbicide, you have to read and follow the instructions very carefully, no forgetting to rest any paddocks once chemicals have been used on them. These chemicals need to be washed into the land before any horses are turned out onto the pasture.
There are several things you would need to identify in a paddock and this includes any worm burden, poisonous weeds or plants, whether the grass has been badly poached and if there are any boggy areas. Other things to find out is the lime status of the soil and to note the appearance of the grass. All of these will dictate what would be the best way to improve the pasture.
There has been a trend to plant a corner or headland of a paddock with valuable herbs for horses to graze when out to grass. These include things like vetch, comfrey and fenugreek all of which provide useful minerals. However, adding the supplements to feeds is also extremely beneficial together with a mineral or supplement block placed in the paddock.
If possible, dividing a field into separate grazing areas by using electric fencing is a useful option and is particularly helpful if grazing is short. This not only allows you to control the areas your horse grazes, but is a very flexible solution that can be altered when needed. However, paddocks need to be large enough to make this a viable option or you could end up with several poached areas in one single paddock. A “horse sick” pasture could result in all sorts of health issues for your horse, so best avoided.
It is crucial to worm horses before turning them out onto new pastures which have been rested and newly fertilised. One other thing that should be done is to pick up any existing horse droppings in the paddock. If it's a big paddock then a Tow and Collect system might be the ideal solution that gets the job done fast and efficiently whilst grooming the pasture at the same time. The thing to remember is that worm “infestation” can seriously affect a horse's health sometimes causing irreparable organ damage.
There are many companies that specialise in maintaining horse pastures and who all boast the right type of equipment to make light work of the task. You will find that scooping horse droppings everyday will go a long way in saving your grazing and preventing the land becoming “horse sick”.
Employing the services of the experts is money well spent and the advice they offer can be invaluable, especially if it saves your paddocks and keeps the grazing in top condition for your horses. Some companies use a Vacuum System to collect the horse manure and while these machines are very good, they do tend to get clogged up which can slow the whole process down quite a bit, the longer it takes the more expensive it might turn out to be.
The Tow and Collect systems however, can be hitched up to a quad and the system uses a bag which just needs emptying when full. This means the jobs can be done a lot faster and therefore cuts the cost down. The other bonus is that this particular system picks up thatch as well which means it really does groom a paddock very effectively ready for horses to be turned out onto the pasture.
Keeping paddocks and pastures in good condition really does pay off in the long run. Feed bills drop as do vet bills if horses are healthy having reaped all the nutrients and goodness they need out of the grass they graze. Therefore having a realistic budget in place for paddock maintenance to be routinely carried out is money well spent, good pasture equals a healthy, happy horse and therefore a happy owner.