Pasture Management for Year-Round Grazing

In regions with mild climates, proper pasture management can allow horses to graze throughout the year.
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Pasture Management for Year-Round Grazing
Overgrazing of pastures can be avoided with good management and rotational grazing. | Photo: iStock

Q. I am in the process of buying a property with 5 acres where I will keep my three horses. I’d like to offer them grazing year-round. It’s not particularly cold here in California, but the winters are wet. What can I do to help ensure they have viable grazing available throughout the year?

A. Congratulations on the purchase of your own horse property! I would encourage you to seek out and read a number of the resources available online for managing horses on small acreage. I grew up keeping horses on pasture year-round in a wet climate. It can be done but takes careful management and an understanding of how grass grows, as well as the optimum grazing conditions.

Grass Plant Growth

Unless you are somewhere with a very mild or hot climate, such as Southern California and Florida, most pasture grasses are cold-season, meaning spring and fall are their main growing seasons. Their growth slows in the summer, and they might go dormant for as long as four months in the winter even though they remain green

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Clair Thunes, PhD, is an equine nutritionist who owns Clarity Equine Nutrition, based in Gilbert, Arizona. She works as a consultant with owners/trainers and veterinarians across the United States and globally to take the guesswork out of feeding horses and provides services to select companies. As a nutritionist she works with all equids, from WEG competitors to Miniature donkeys and everything in between. Born in England, she earned her undergraduate degree at Edinburgh University, in Scotland, and her master’s and doctorate in nutrition at the University of California, Davis. Growing up, she competed in a wide array of disciplines and was an active member of the U.K. Pony Club. Today, she serves as the district commissioner for the Salt River Pony Club.

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