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How steep of a grade is okay for a pasture?

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  • How steep of a grade is okay for a pasture?

    I'm going to look at a really long shot foreclosure today. I know it's on a hill (Part of it would probably be considered a mountain more than a hill.) I'm wondering how steep is reasonable for a pasture? Anything else to consider? (truth is, I probably wouldn't move my horse home even if we bought the place, but in case I lost my job in the future or something I'd like to know it's a possibility.)
    Thanks!

  • #2
    you can go pretty steep. I wish I had the picture here I took from my grandma's farm...that back pasture was STEEP. best sledding hill in the country, and all private!

    Anyhow, took a picture of a horse grazing...like a mountain goat.

    Of course, that is WAY scary to navigate in a tractor or such...

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    • #3
      Yep horses can handle pretty darn steep inclines. Unless your horse is a UBER fragile I say the steeper the better! Makes for fit horses that know how to use their feet!

      Comment


      • #4
        After a visit to Switzerland a year ago, truly almost vertical will work if you animals can cope.

        Comment


        • #5
          i think hills are quite good for critters. i live on the side of a mountain, adjacent to a ski area if that gives you an idea of how steep. my haflingers of course thrive on this mountain, as do the goats, and any old timers or lame horses have done quite well using the switchbacks to get around. it's excellent for balance and muscle development, but hell on tractors or mowing.
          ours is also heavily wooded, so i feed hay year round. the plus side of this is that my air ferns get plenty of exercise while i get to monitor what they eat.
          hills with varied plants are way far superior to lush grass pastures in my book.

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          • #6
            I'd love a gently rolling lay of the land, but I don't have it. Didn't have it when I was young either. The horses will make little trails on the contours, your only problem is that a steep pasture is really easy to ruin and harder to keep up. You have to learn to mow by backing up the hill, it takes twice as long because you only get a good cut going forward.

            We try to keep them penned up when it is too wet and slippery because they can hurt themselves, they slide and skid the grass roots right out, and heavy rain will erode any exposed dirt very fast. My immediate area is NOT the gorgeous bluegrass horse farms you see in postcards.

            Take a look and see if there isn't an area you can grade flat or if you haven't got a ridgetop or creek bottom. You can look at USGS topo maps on Terraserver.com, their free pics have watermarks but you can make out quite a bit and for $30 you can get a subscription and print off clear pics - they charge extra for downloads.

            I've seen a steep boulder strewn place made into one of those pasture paradise setups where they just made an endless trail with haying stations, I think it was pretty good for the horses actually.
            Last edited by ReSomething; Apr. 7, 2011, 07:30 PM. Reason: more about the website and I cannot spell
            Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
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            • #7
              If the grade is more than 30 degrees tell your farrier. He will trim the left hooves half an inch shorter than the right to prevent horses developing long and short legs.

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              • #8
                One thing I did learn in Switzerland is that when it's wet and muddy, they do not turn the animals out. The horses stay in small lots with improved footing and the cows stay inside. They are very aware of land conservation issues and preventing erosion and contamination of water downhill from the farms. They don't even spread manure over there until the governments says it's OK to do so..the weather is right, etc..

                My point is that the steeper land will be more a management challenge than less steeply graded land. Something to consider in your decision process. It can be done but may take more effort on your part.

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                • #9
                  I'm on a hillside. We didn't really buy this to be "horse property" but I have horses, I hate boarding, so horses are here! I'm not crazy about the sloped pastures -- we have clay soil here and it gets really slick with all the rain, so I am a lot more careful about keeping the horses off the pasture than I might be if it was flatter. But being on slope also means that we have drainage -- water runs down the slope, so you don't have as much ponding and wet spots.

                  I also deal with a big change in elevation from our house to the barn. Didn't seem so bad 10 years ago when we bought the place, but now as I get older, that hike up the hill does get tiring! And the slide down the hill in the muck gets more treacherous.

                  As someone mentioned, being on a hillside does make some things like mowing more challenging. It also affected our choice of fencing because my first choice, no-climb with a top board, is impossible to make look good when you are going over irregular ground.

                  Personally, I would not want to go with any thing more sloped than what we have now -- which is about 15% at the most extremes in the pasture area (more in other areas, like the path to the house). But sometimes you can find some flat spots even on a hillside. I have a couple of pretty nice flattish areas here that I hope to make into an arena. If we stay...

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by tangledweb View Post
                    If the grade is more than 30 degrees tell your farrier. He will trim the left hooves half an inch shorter than the right to prevent horses developing long and short legs.


                    You can sometimes actually get people to believe that cows on hillside farms in NY and New England have shorter legs on one side!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Daydream Believer View Post
                      One thing I did learn in Switzerland is that when it's wet and muddy, they do not turn the animals out. The horses stay in small lots with improved footing and the cows stay inside. They are very aware of land conservation issues and preventing erosion and contamination of water downhill from the farms. They don't even spread manure over there until the governments says it's OK to do so..the weather is right, etc..

                      My point is that the steeper land will be more a management challenge than less steeply graded land. Something to consider in your decision process. It can be done but may take more effort on your part.
                      Yes, Switzerland and Austria are extreme in these matters. But then again, they will be up a creek without a paddle should the hillside slide down into town....it's basic survival measures.

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                      • #12
                        I grew up in West Virginia and we farm on hills that farmers in Indiana wouldn't drive. My dad did roll the round baler once, and been on some wild rides down hills. They have seat belts and roll bars for a reason.

                        We had a hill that rivalled the one in the the Man from Snowy River in the cow pasture. Once I ran off it with my pony when I provoked the bull. I hate going downhill at speed and I can still see that drop! Like a roller coaster.

                        Horses are fine. They make paths back and forth on the mountain, rarely go straight down. They often go straight up!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Alagirl View Post
                          Yes, Switzerland and Austria are extreme in these matters. But then again, they will be up a creek without a paddle should the hillside slide down into town....it's basic survival measures.


                          Totally agree with not turning horses out on slippery hillsides... or any wet/icy/snowy pasture. Too great a risk. Here in SE PA the footing is pretty god awful during the winter and early spring. It's not even that safe for people to be running around on sometimes. We just turn out in the arena until the ground dries out enough.

                          You know what's awful? People really have a problem with that idea. We've had people inquire about boarding over the winter and when my trainer/BO explains our turnout situation they don't get it at all. She alway ends up telling them the little story about how a few years back our one vet (from the biggest equine hospital in the Pittsburgh area) was out here in the winter and told her that he had euth'ed 6 horses in the past week or two because people were insisting on turning them out in the snow and wetness.
                          Tru : April 14, 1996 - March 14, 2011
                          Thank you for everything boy.


                          Better View.

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                          • #14
                            ever seen the Alpine meadows? they would be just fine
                            Tamara


                            Originally posted by 4Martini View Post
                            I'm going to look at a really long shot foreclosure today. I know it's on a hill (Part of it would probably be considered a mountain more than a hill.) I'm wondering how steep is reasonable for a pasture? Anything else to consider? (truth is, I probably wouldn't move my horse home even if we bought the place, but in case I lost my job in the future or something I'd like to know it's a possibility.)
                            Thanks!
                            Production Acres,Pro A Welsh Cobs
                            I am one of the last 210,000 remaining full time farmers in America.We feed the others.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              We have been turning our horses out daily in snow and wet, and on hillsides, for 20 years and never had an incident because of it.

                              On the other hand, I have seen horses euth'ed because they were kept up in too small an area, never turned out then lost it playing in a small paddock with good footing and broke a leg. Sad but predictable.

                              I do really have a problem with keeping the horses up all winter and only turning out for limited times in an arena. I would not board somewhere with that kind of turnout situation. I think it is sad for the horses that such places exist.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                you have to play it by ear. Not every horse is like the other, soil conditions can vary, even on the same property.

                                Most horses do fine on a slope. But there are downsides, as mentioned above. And if you are not used to run machinery on a steep hillside, things can get ugly (and somewhat dangerous. But then again, I am amazed that in the US you still can buy tractors without rollbar...been legal standart in Germany for over 20 years)

                                Also, weather conditions are never the same. That last snow we had her ein Bama, I don't think I would have turned out in that, as it had a pretty good sheet of ice on top. I also think that kneedeep mud is not favorable...but that's just it. Horses have been known to commit suicide in padded stall...

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  My horses went from relatively flat pastures to 24/7 quite hilly. The barn insisted that they, retirees, get borium shoes (after 15 years of barefoot). Given the mud/snow/ice and steep hills the borium shoes are probably a good call.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Part of my land is on a pretty good slope. The horses rarely graze that bit, but have no problem with it when I turn them out there. (I just don't like using it because there's no water supply to that field.)
                                    Horse Show Names Free name website with over 6200 names. Want to add? PM me!

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                                    • #19
                                      My friends in Switzerland who imported 5 Spanish Mustangs now (to include two of my fillies) tell how funny it was when the farm they boarded their Spanish Mustangs at first turned out their newly imported "Indianer Pferds" (Indian Horses) in one of the very steep pastures. I guess the locals thought the American horses would not do well and quite a few of the locals turned out to see the American horses fall down the hillside. They underestimated the canny little food motivated Spanish Mustangs who soon figured out how to graze on the very steep slope by doing it head upward, front legs splayed sideways to keep them balanced and hind legs braced to hold their weight. I guess they impressed a few Swiss farmers with their ability to move like mountain goats sideways crabwise on the steep hills. Swiss horses are typically Warmbloodlike and bigger...more utility beasts and while surefooted, they are not known for being quite that maneuverable.

                                      They are also legendary escape artists. The Swiss were woefully unprepared for the arrival of the clever Spanish Mustangs and several of their adventures in the Swiss countryside have entertained a lot of people over a stein of beer.

                                      I truly enjoyed the Swiss folks. They have a fantastic sense of humor and are a tough hardy people themselves. I have a ton of respect for how well they manage their incredibly beautiful county.

                                      http://i97.photobucket.com/albums/l2...A/P4070056.jpg

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by Daydream Believer View Post
                                        My friends in Switzerland who imported 5 Spanish Mustangs now (to include two of my fillies) tell how funny it was when the farm they boarded their Spanish Mustangs at first turned out their newly imported "Indianer Pferds" (Indian Horses) in one of the very steep pastures. I guess the locals thought the American horses would not do well and quite a few of the locals turned out to see the American horses fall down the hillside. They underestimated the canny little food motivated Spanish Mustangs who soon figured out how to graze on the very steep slope by doing it head upward, front legs splayed sideways to keep them balanced and hind legs braced to hold their weight. I guess they impressed a few Swiss farmers with their ability to move like mountain goats sideways crabwise on the steep hills. Swiss horses are typically Warmbloodlike and bigger...more utility beasts and while surefooted, they are not known for being quite that maneuverable.

                                        They are also legendary escape artists. The Swiss were woefully unprepared for the arrival of the clever Spanish Mustangs and several of their adventures in the Swiss countryside have entertained a lot of people over a stein of beer.

                                        I truly enjoyed the Swiss folks. They have a fantastic sense of humor and are a tough hardy people themselves. I have a ton of respect for how well they manage their incredibly beautiful county.

                                        http://i97.photobucket.com/albums/l2...A/P4070056.jpg
                                        ah, that's the crocket lawn!

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