Pasture for equine use serves many different purposes. It is a food source, exercise area, latrine and a secure environment to socialise with other horses. Whether your horse lives out 24/7 or is turned out for a few hours a day, pasture management is of the utmost importance to your horse’s health. Horses will spend up to 16 hours a day eating so investing time, money and resources into your pasture will be beneficial in the long-term.
Daily checks and routine job
- Gates and boundaries are secure and fencing is in good repair
- Adequate supply of fresh water provided
- Remove droppings
- Check and remove any poisonous plants
- Check for and remove any rubbish or dangerous objects
- Check for rabbit holes and badger setts – badgers are protected by law so areas surrounding their setts should be fenced off
- Check horses for injuries and monitor body condition
Minimum land requirements
The BHS recommends a ratio of two horses per hectare on permanent grazing (1- 1.5 acres per horse). However, this recommendation can only ever be a guide as it is subject to numerous factors, such as:
- Size and type of horse/pony
- Fat score of horse/pony
- Length of time spent stabled or exercised off the pasture
- Time of year
- Quality of the pasture and type of soil
- Number of animals on the pasture
- How well the pasture is managed and cared for
In all circumstances, stock densities must take individual requirements into consideration. This is essential to help reduce the chances of fighting or bullying where several animals are turned out together.
It is important to balance a horse’s need for free exercise and interaction with other horses in a field environment to exhibit their natural behaviour against the danger of consuming excess calories from grass.
It is imperative that there is a constant supply of fresh clean water available in the field. This may be from large buckets or an automatically filling trough.
- Water containers must be large enough to provide a constant supply of water for all of the horses in the field
- Containers must be sturdy and free from sharp edges
- The water supply must be easily accessible for both horse and keeper, checked daily, cleaned regularly and placed away from trees to avoid falling debris
- If possible, position the water source away from the corners of the field so that more dominant herd members cannot trap other horses
This water supply is not adequate and should be filled up more
often or additional troughs provided to ensure a plentiful supply
Extra care must be taken in extremes of weather. In very hot weather more water may be consumed and therefore containers will need to be topped up frequently if they are not self-filling. In very cold weather the water source may freeze over and therefore any ice must be broken to allow the horses to drink. In both scenarios the water will need to be checked several times daily.
Natural water supplies such as streams, rivers and ponds may seem to provide an easy and readily available supply of water, but they are often not suitable. Due to their unregulated source they pose the risk of being contaminated, polluted or stagnant and may also dry up during prolonged hot weather. Streams in particular can often have a sandy base which may result in the ingestion of sand potentially leading to sand colic. The approach to a natural water source may also be unsafe increasing the risk of an accident. Where natural water supplies are available it is usually advised that they are fenced off and an alternative supply is provided.
For further information, download our leaflet on Pasture Management.