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Acreage for 6 horses?

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  • Acreage for 6 horses?

    What would you consider the minimum amount of acreage to keep 6 horses on?
    A couple are riding horses, a broodmare, and a few youngsters....

    Also would be nice to be able to rotate pastures, and I would need room for a house, shop arena, hay barn, horse barn and roundpen. In California.

    My DH and I were discussing this the other night, and I'm curious what COTHers say....

  • #2
    Would depend on area of the state, sun exposure, type of pasture grass/forage planted and maturity, size of horses, whether or not you have enough rainfall or have to irrigate (and if you do have to irrigate whether or not you are allowed to by your local regs...some areas you can only water specific amounts of land or use specific amounts of water unless you have irrigation water rights)..also whether or not you plan to rely on grazing for their feed or if you plan to provide supplemental hay or all their hay and just allow grazing for fun for them.

    I'm in northern NV on 40 acres with 20 head of horses but no irrigation rights so I feed hay all year...there is some grass growth right now but it won't last more than 6-8 weeks with the high desert climate. Eventually I want all the sage and greasewood gone and some kind of perennial dryland pasture mix, pens for everyone so that the fields can grow without being grazed for at least the first month of growth in the spring and hopefully will be able to get enough growth for them to graze almost completely for their feed for about 2 months..cutting the hay bill by just that much would be a great savings for me. And babies look cuter on something green than running through the sage.
    Colored Cowhorse Ranch
    Northern NV


    • #3
      I manage 6 on 20 acres total. Divided in to 5 enclosures arranged in a circular fashion, around a central home and barn site. I would think about 1 acre is used for home/barn/ring and maybe another 2 in woodland. They are in two groups of three. If one group is in paddock 1, 2nd group is in paddock 4, they rotate one paddock every 2 weeks. So when group 1 is in paddock 2, group 2 is in paddock 5 and so on. This is what I have found works well (in Georgia). I mow each paddock generally twice a year, mostly for weed control.
      ... _. ._ .._. .._


      • #4
        If you are planning to FEED these animals on grass grown on your land, you will need anywhere from 1-10 acres per horse, depending on where you're located and how much rainfall you get.

        However, if you plan to feed mostly hay and simply want the room for the horses to be happy and able to roam freely, just a few acres would do fine. Obviously the more the better, especially for youngsters.

        I keep 3 (give or take) happily on our 12 acre property, of which 6.5, roughly, is in two large grass paddocks. There is a half-acre dirt/sacrifice paddock where they spend a great deal of their time, sometimes weeks on end if the footing in the paddocks is not suitable for them to be out there. Mine are mostly adults. I have two yearlings now and they need more room than that, so we're all impatiently waiting for Mud Season to be over.

        With 6 acres for grazing and only a handful of horses I *could* just keep them on grass most of the spring and summer, but because mine are all easy keepers I usually just graze them about 12 hours a day, tops, then they spend the night in the dirt paddock with a little hay. The two skinny broodmares I had last summer (moms of the yearlings I mentioned) ate pretty much non-stop all spring and summer along with the babies, and the grass kept up, but barely.

        If you have limited grazing, you have to take GOOD care of it. It's possible to allow horses to graze on a very few acres, but you can't expect to keep them entirely on grass.

        "Horsekeeping on Small Acreage" by Cherry Hill is a very worthwhile book.
        Click here before you buy.


        • #5
          We are in the semi-desert, bordering desert areas and the rating for here is 25 acres per animal unit, that is one horse.
          Of course, that is AVERAGE, but since we have been in a drought for many years now, we figure 30 acres per horse and we still have to supplement half the year all they eat and the other half, depending on how much it rains/snows.

          You need to go ask your USDA Farm Service office what they recommend as stocking rate and management for the pastures for your area, as each area is so different from others.


          • #6
            I keep 6 horses on 5 acres of which only 3.5 are pasture......but I live on Vancouver Island......I have 14 pastures and I rotate horses around from May to Sept.......2 to a pasture.....I also fertilize and mow. Horses are out for 2 to 3 hours am and pm with about 3 lbs of hay for late night and that is it........I've been doing this for 10 years now and it works well but it is labor intensive. They are in gravel paddocks from Oct to May



            • #7
              So difficult to know as it depends on where you are. We have 3, but have had up to 6, on 10 acres with 2 houses and a full size arena and only feed in the winter. We are near Houston and typically have very good grass. We have the property split into 3 pastures.


              • #8
                I think our zoning requirement is 5 acres for the first livestock unit (one horse = one cow= some number of goats, pigs, etc.) and one acre for each additional livestock unit. So that would be 10 acres for 6 horses.
                "In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming part dog."
                -Edward Hoagland


                • #9
                  I think you need to consider how you want to keep your horses before you decide.

                  Can you picture the size of an acre? An acre is 43,560 square feet. Roughly the size of a football field WITHOUT the end zones.

                  Do you want several pastures, so the horses are divided by age and sex? Will you be able to irrigate? Are you hoping you don't have to feed hay part of the year?

                  My dad would say an acre a horse, another acre for the gate/water bucket area, a half-acre for a dry lot or sacrifice lot. Then at least a half-acre for each building: house, barn, hay shed, work shop, round pen, maybe trailer/tractor parking? You want to think about room to park and turn around when you bring in/get a delivery of hay or grain or bedding. Speaking of which, where will you store shavings?

                  So you need upwards of 10 acres. this would give you enough room to rotate pastures and have space of everything. Of course, it could be done on less land. I've seen 'ranches' of three acres or less. No pasture, of course.

                  How suitable this would be depends on a bunch of things. How is the land? Flat? Rolling? Hilly? What is the rainfall?

                  And the biggest question of all, how much can you afford?


                  • #10
                    huge difference if you live in TX or KY bluegrass. And if you intend to graze the horses or haying them on dirt lots is OK with you,. Then as mentioned zoning is an issue too. Around here that can range from an acre per horse (6 acre minumum for you)are to others townships which 5 acre minimum and an acre per horse after that (10 acres for 6 horses). Personally if you want grass...2 acres per horse is a good rule of thumb.
                    Providence Farm


                    • #11
                      I live in KY bluegrass area. UK extension office advises 2 1/2 acres per horse for 24/7 turnout, keeping in mind they will need hay in the winter. And that's without a drought.


                      • #12
                        I live in central GA where we usually have good grass from late March to October. I have 5.5 acres total with a about 5 acres of it fenced for the horses. I have 3 horses and a mini donkey on it and usually don't have to feed hay until October-February/March.
                        "My biggest fear is that when I die my husband is going to try to sell all my horses and tack for what I told him they cost."