View Full Version : Over-grazed paddock- possible to increase grass for this year?

Mar. 24, 2011, 11:01 PM
I'm investigating boarding options (again). My current barn, though I do like it, is entirely too far away. Doing partial care when I live 30 minutes away (longer during rush hour) is really becoming expensive with the cost of gas and my time on the road, combined with my mild dissatisfaction with some other things, and is quickly losing its appeal. Yes, I've tried mentioning to the BO my concerns. They go unresponded to, and nothing has changed, so I'm not holding my breath. I'm not upset about it, per se, but when you factor that in WITH the long drive costs... it's not ideal anymore.

One barn that I am interested in (exactly 4 minutes from my house) has small paddocks for turnout. It's hard to tell for sure in this mucky Rochester wintring (that's a combo of winter and spring, for the uninitiated), but based on what I've seen for the area and what boarders have mentioned, I'm going to go with my gut that the pastures don't generate a full bounty of grass. They're not barren, so far as I know and can tell, but they aren't exactly lush.

Now, if I were to move there I *think* it would be just my 2 in a pasture, so I could have full say on turn out, etc, and I wouldn't mind footing the bill to pay for pasture improvement measures. I'd happily plunk down a couple hundred if it meant I'd get results this spring or summer because I think it would pay for itself (in a small way) as I would need to throw less hay in the summer AND the ponies would have less time (in theory) to conjure up fun ways to scare me and/or make me broke.

But, is it even possible to do anything to influence the grass for this year assuming the best case scenario of weather, seed choice, pasture "nurturing", etc? If I were to move, it wouldn't be for a month, so I could possibly even put down seeds and fertilizer(?) a month ahead of time and just let it sit. And I have no problem limiting their turnout for a bit while it takes hold.

Someone being my Grass Guru, give me swami wisdom. Tell me if I have a chance at improving the turnout, or if I have to suck it up this year and make plans for next year instead.

Mar. 24, 2011, 11:34 PM
Your best chance at using the pasture to feed a pair of horses is temporary Hot wire/tape and fertilizer.

The hot tape is to rotation graze. Graze a small section, then move the horses. Let each section have a few weeks to recover.

Get a soil test so you're not throwing money on the ground with any ole' bag of fertilizer. Get the proper stuff spread with an agreement with the land owner. You don't want to spend a bunch of money and then be forced to leave it on the ground.

It's too late for seed in my opinion. Those fresh shoots will be torn up by horses before they can establish a turf.

Mar. 24, 2011, 11:40 PM
I doubt it's too late in Rochester (NY or MN)! But they key would be to keep horses off it for some time -- two or three months -- so it can get established. How large are the paddocks?

Mar. 25, 2011, 01:20 AM
Rochester, NY, where the weather was 50 last week and 20 this week. Hellooooooo snow-covered mud! :)

I'd say the smallest ones are roughly 100x100 so... 10,000 square feet. The pastures are kind of oblong, but that's the best estimate I can make with the Google maps satellite image, haha. It would actually end up giving them more space than the current situation, which is 5-6 horses on an approx. 200x200 space.

2-3 months of pasture rest would be tricky, though. I could probably safely cut off 1/2 to 1/3 of the pasture for a few weeks after move in to allow for some "rotation" of the grass. My two aren't prone to immense hijinks, and I could always turn them out in the outdoor for running stupid time first (this is a pretty small barn so the ring is often empty I hear)...

So if I moved there I'd 1) need the BOs blessing to put seed and/or fertilizer down 2) a soil sample to know what the best "stuff" to put down is, and 3) to quadrant the pasture off for a few weeks even after move-in. I'd also probably need 4) Not to get my hopes up?

Have I got it right?

Mar. 25, 2011, 03:14 AM
Not just the BO's blessing for fertilizer... But an agreement to reimburse you if the BO changes her mind or terms about you boarding there. If you decide to leave though, tough... it's your choice. 2000 pounds of 34-0-0 for 10 acres cost me $$495 last week... and I applied it. You'll have to hire someone.

About the hot wire ... it's not just "pasture rotation". see here >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Managed_intensive_grazing

I still think seed would be a waste in your situation. I'm in NC. The seed I drilled last September is still too young to stand much abuse by horses. You can seed if you wish, but consider the seed as Hors d'oeuvre to the pasture's main course. Horses will seek out those tender shoots and munch them to the ground. Seed needs a year or more of growth to establish a horse tolerant turf.

Mar. 25, 2011, 07:53 AM
I agree with hosspuller - you'll be tossing good money out for fertilizer & seed.

I had my small field (about 1/2ac) drill-seeded the first year I was here to see how that went.
I kept 2 horses off it for 6mos then let them have at it.
They grazed it down to zip in a month.

I have not bothered to try rehabbing that field or my larger - 2ac - one and there is sufficient grazing that my hay use goes waaaay down when there is what grass there is.
Both are former beanfields so any grass that grows there was not seeded by me except for the small field & that was 7 years ago. I don't fertilize either unless mowing manure piles counts...

Meager grass is not a bad thing.
No worry about Spring or Fall founder, happy horses who don't seem to require a putting green to keep busy.

Unless it were my property I'd wait & see how the grass comes in at the new place before spending anything trying to improve it.

Mar. 25, 2011, 10:51 AM
Five horses on 200 x 200 lots, or two horses on 100 x 100 means those are dry lots. It won't matter if you seed etc, that is not enough land to support horses grazing.

For future reference, the rule of thumb is one acre/horse, and even that sometimes isn't quite enough if it is a dry year, or a very muddy spring so the grass is torn up, etc (this depends on the part of the country you are in, but we are both in NY state). So to have enough grass for your horses you would need them on a two acre pasture, as a minimum.

But agree, horses don't need grass/lush grass to be happy; and for some horses (easy keepers) it is probably better for them NOT to be on lush pasture.

Mar. 25, 2011, 01:42 PM
They'll need hay. Pure and simple. Spend the money on that instead.

Mar. 25, 2011, 10:12 PM
I agree - I have three horses on about five acres, and they are on hay Oct-May, and I'm in TN, where we have a good growing season. I'll be happy to have enough grass for summer grazing. 100x100 is turnout, not a pasture!

Mar. 25, 2011, 10:39 PM
A dry paddock with no grass is not necessarily a bad thing. A friend runs a barn here in Ocala. She has lots of trees, so her paddocks are basicly dry lots - no grass. And it's good! The horses get lots of hay, and they never sand colic because there are no grass roots to hunt for, as a sparse pasture would offer. Even in my very lush pasture, the horses dig holes to get at the roots..... sigh....


Mar. 25, 2011, 10:40 PM
A 100 x 100 lot is not going to grow meaningful grass to support anything more than a few rabbits, unfortunately. That size lot is for exercise, fresh air, and mental health. Throw plenty of hay and don't waste your money on grass seed or fertilizer on a sacrifice paddock. :)

Mar. 26, 2011, 02:09 AM
Alrighty- whatever grows is whatever grows, I guess :)

Thanks for the advice/education. It was worth a shot. They are both TBs, and while they are easier keepers than some, they little one has the TB metabolism and the big one is well, big, and needs a lot to support that body. Being able to count on some grass calories in the summer would have been nice. But, it does seem that a *little* grass grows, so at least they'll have some nibblings out there, in addition to the hay I'll throw.

I may not even move there, so this is all purely speculation. There is another farm I'm looking at that's a wee bit further out, and they have run outs off the stalls, a dry lot off of the run outs, and then two GIANT pastures that the use in the summer months. The trade off is that they aren't really set up to easily accommodate boarders who are frequent riders (there is no tack room, tack boxes are stored in a less-than-convenient location).

I'm sure I'll post a "which barn" thread in the near future if my trainer and I don't find a clear preference for one over the other, haha.

Mar. 28, 2011, 10:25 PM
I'm agreeing with the above posters about 1 acre per horse for grass.

Your local agricultural extension office will have suggestions on how to space samples, and even test for free. Even in a 100x100 paddock, the fertilizer needs will vary.

I used to board at a facility with similar size paddocks and we seeded, but the birds and horses seemed to gobble up most of it but we had fun and high hopes trying. What did grow didn't last but a month or so.