View Full Version : Questions about pasture/turnout

Oct. 19, 2009, 11:11 AM
Hi All, I'm hoping to draw on your collective experience to help me work through the best plan for pasture/turnout for my horses. DH and I are just starting to look at horse properties, but first I need to have a better idea what I'm going to need. I will have three oldies (retired or semi-retired) plus 2 boarders, am planning on turning out in 2 groups.

For late spring/summer/fall they can most likely be out 24/7, winter/early spring they will be in nights (and possibly in days in the worst of the bugs in the summer). So I plan to have a shelter in each pasture as well, or have some way so that they can run into their stalls (except I then envision the stall doorways being muddy all.the.time.)

How much acreage do I need in order to be able to keep my pastures rotated properly? I know I will have to supplement with hay most of the year, our grass here just isn't very good and our growing season is short, so I'm mainly concerned about them having something to munch on as much as possible, and not turning the paddocks into muck (we have muddy springs/late falls, with lots of freezing/thawing through the winter).

Also, is there anything that you know now that you wish you'd known when you first bought property and set it up? Any advice is greatly appreciated. Thank you!

Oct. 19, 2009, 11:17 AM
More than anything you will need a sacrifice paddock or 2 even near the barn, when the weather is just too bad or the conditions are too bad and turnout would destroy the pasture.

other than that, the most you can possibly afford ;);)

Oct. 19, 2009, 11:19 AM
1 acre/horse is the minimum that you would need....

Oct. 19, 2009, 11:28 AM
Is it best to have my shelters in the sacrifice paddocks, then? And then have a way (series of gates) to make them available from the grass paddocks? Or should I plan on having a shelter in each paddock?

I suspect we'll be looking at about 15 acres maximum (we both work in the city, so we can't go too far out, hard to get more than 15 acres and stay within an hour commute). Is that enough for 5 horses? Or should I stick with 3 or 4?

Also, does anyone have a preference of run in shelters vs. running into the stalls? I'm starting to think that's not going to work, just because of the mud factor, but does anyone have any experience with making the area around the barn/in front of the stalls "mud-proof" (I'm sure there's no such thing)...

I'm going to try to pick up that Cherry Hill book today about horsekeeping on a small acreage... any other suggested reading?

Oct. 19, 2009, 01:20 PM
Alagirl is exactly right, on all points!

If you can afford it, putting enough shelter in each field is ideal. I cannot; my sacrifice paddock is set within a larger one. One long side of the sacrifice is the larger field's fence, and almost all of the shorter side of the sacrifice field is two large run-ins. That way, if the horses are in the sacrifice field, they have shelter. And if the horses are in the big grass field, I leave the gates open and they can get to shelter. The only time this isn't ideal is when I have my fat pony and donkey, who really need to be shut into the sacrifice area because it is also a dry lot, and the other horses are out on grass -- if I close off the dry lot, the others don't have access to shelter.

(This can be solved with the use of grazing muzzles for the fatties, and/or close watching of the weather for the others, so that they get to shelter when it rains).

My other fields have enough shelter for 2 - 3 horses, (I have 6 here), so in bad weather I have to split up the herd to ensure everyone has access to a run-in. In a perfect world each field would have enough shelter for everyone so I wouldn't have to move horses around so much.

I personally prefer run-ins because they aren't bedded, and so are less work than keeping stalls picked out. On the other hand if you have a perfect set up with stalls then I guess you could do things like put fans on the horses in the summer.

Oct. 19, 2009, 02:02 PM
Also, does anyone have a preference of run in shelters vs. running into the stalls? I'm starting to think that's not going to work, just because of the mud factor, but does anyone have any experience with making the area around the barn/in front of the stalls "mud-proof" (I'm sure there's no such thing)...

I have five horses at home on about 9 acres of pasture. My guys have been together for years and get along reasonably well, but I still won't use our stalls for run-ins. I know tons of people do, but it's just an injury risk (two, three horses going into one stall) I'm not willing to take. That and the mud factor. Our barn builder discouraged us from having a shelter build up against the barn because of long term damage, and I'm glad he did.

Our place is broken up into four rotational fields, one of which is my "sacrifice pasture" (about 2.5 acres) where they stay all winter with round bales. That has a nice sized run-in shed for them. It's worked out very well. And with four pastures, I'm able to give the sacrifice pasture time to rest and recover (I usually overseed) in the spring.

I'm sure we're a little less muddy then you are here in VA, but nothing works better than stone (crusher run). Through the years we've just kept an eye on where the mud is and addressed it with a load of stone spot by spot. If we had the money to do it right from the get-go, I would have had a 15-20 foot stone skirt put around the barn and run-in shed, and 20 foot circles of stone put at all entry gates and water trough locations. But you live and learn. :)

Oct. 19, 2009, 02:15 PM
Keep in mind that I have never owned my own place. We're currently waiting (no so patiently) for my current house to sell so we can put an offer in on a 10 acre place so I've started really researching and looking at what I want to do, in addition to the years of boarding at different place and knowing what I like.

That said... have you looked into setting up a Paddock Paradise situation? I think this is the way we'll be going. If you want 2 different groups you'll need 2 different tracks, but from everything I've read, I REALLY like this idea (I'm very much pro-turnout but did own a hot-house flower of an OTTB who liked her stall too). With the exception of some of his more "out there" ideas to incorporate into the track, I honestly think this is a fantastic use of land and a really great way of keeping the horse mentally and physically well.

Now if we could just sell the house and get the new place... ;)

Oct. 19, 2009, 04:43 PM
1 acre/horse is the recommended minimum with religious pasture management. otherwise it's more like 2 acres/horse.