Pasture Management 101: Starting a New Horse Pasture from Scratch

Factors to consider include facility design, rotational grazing, recommended seeding practices, and toxic weeds.
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Pasture Management 101: Creating a Horse Pasture From Scratch
When designing a pasture for your facility, keep in mind the total number of horses your land can support. | Photo: Thinkstock
In the first two installments of our pasture management series we talked about pasture grasses and renovating established pastures. However, occasionally horse owners will find that it’s ultimately a better option to start the process from scratch. Factors to consider when doing so include facility design, rotational grazing, recommended seeding practices, and toxic weeds.

Plan Your Paddocks and Pastures

When designing a pasture for your facility, keep in mind the total number of horses your land can support.

“Many horse owners want to have pasture provide a majority of their horse’s nutrition, but often overstock the land,” said Jennie Ivey, MS, PhD, assistant professor and extension equine specialist at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture. Thus, they “use turnout time strictly for exercise while providing additional hay” for nutrition, she said.

In general, the recommended stocking rate—which allows for a horse to graze pasture without stressing the grass stand and prevents overgrazing—is one mature horse per 2 to 3 acres of land. While pastures in some areas might be able to maintain horses on less land, keep in mind that varying weather patterns, soil fertility, manure presence, and weeds will impact how much forage is available for the horse to consume

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Written by:

Hope Ellis-Ashburn, MS, lives with her husband and daughter near Chattanooga, Tennessee, where the family raises Black Angus cattle and hay on her husband’s family’s farm, which has been in operation for over a century. She is a former Extension agent, a current high school teacher, and has owned horses for more than thirty years. She currently owns a half-Arabian mare named Sally. She began writing freelance articles three years ago, authored The Story of Kimbrook Arabians, and posts a range of horse-related content weekly on her blog, Red Horse on a Red Hill.

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