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3 horses on 5 acres, can it work?

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  • 3 horses on 5 acres, can it work?

    We are finally looking in to getting our own little farm. Originally we were looking for 10 acres or more but there just are not any around in our budget. We have found 3 nice places but they are all 5 acres. I have 3 very easy keepers who would be out only at night. Would 5 acres be enough to sustain them with out the whole place turning into a dry lot? All the 5 acres places I drive by look chewed to the ground. All the farms we are considering have 3 paddocks. Any other tips for small lots that I should consider? Thanks so much! I thought house hunting would be fun but it's very frustrating. We are in Kentucky if that makes a difference.

  • #2
    Honu, I have no input other than: I have smaller acreage than that. But....I do NOT yet keep horses on it. It is our 'retirement' property, and because its all I will have (family homeplace) It will be (!) where we live, no matter what. So....my property is even 'smaller' in many ways. Most of the acreage (well half) is in ravine and woods. So envision only the front half of it in paddocks/etc. I, too hope/intend: to have '3' (or really, 2.5).... I'd like two riding horses, and one small companion. mine is separated into: one fenced grass turn out area on one side of driveway (140 ft x 175 ft), second side of driveway is separated into: one full dressage arena sized turnout ( 70 ft x 200 ft) (in grass) that connects to: 60x60 grass now, but expected to be sacrifice area/ dry lot that connects to run in and an additional grass turnout that connects to that, about 120 ft x 60 ft. ----- I intend to hay (a lot) and will plan to turn out in sacrifice area when too wet or grass too short to sustain, and use turnouts otherwise (of course, dressage arena is to be used as well...and we'll maintain grass here for that purpose) on either nights or days out and nights or days in depending on season.
    ayrabz
    "Indecision may or may not be my problem"
    --Jimmy Buffett

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    • #3
      I currently have two horses on around 5 acres. Probably 4 ish acres are fenced in for the horses and separated into 3 fields. The back field closest to the barn is used as our sacrifice field. It's about 3/4 of an acre and is pretty much bare. If I let the horses have access to all the fields, I'm pretty confident they would be eaten down as well.

      I'm feeding about a bale a day right now...which sucks, but I don't want all my fields eaten down to nothing!

      If you get 5 acres, I would plan on having one as a sacrifice field!
      Charlie Brown (1994 bay TB X gelding)
      White Star (2004 grey TB gelding)

      Mystical Moment, 1977-2010.

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      • #4
        The answer depends on where you are, how healthy your pasture is, how much rainfall you get, etc. I live in Central Georgia and I have a total of 5.5 acres. My house sits on part of it. I have 3 horses and a donkey on it. I have it fenced into three pastures and two night paddocks. I rotate them between pastures and put them in the barn and night paddocks at night. My horses graze on pasture from the middle of March through the middle of October. I usually have to start buying hay before the end of October through the middle or end of March when the grass comes back in. My pastures produce sufficient forage so I usually don't have to feed hay for half the year. I'm sure the story would be different if I left the horses out on the pastures 24/7 but I don't.
        "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."

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        • #5
          We had 20-25 horses on 6 acres. Most of it did turn into dry lot but it worked.
          McDowell Racing Stables

          Home Away From Home

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          • #6
            With a sacrifice dry lot and careful management I'm sure you can keep the whole thing from getting bare. They might not get out on pasture for 12 hours a day, but you can get them out of the stalls.

            Not sure what you mean by 'sustain them' though... you'll surely have to buy hay.
            --
            Wendy
            ... and Patrick

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            • #7
              There are really so many variables. I don't own land right now myself, but my dad still has the small farm I grew up on. It is 7 acres in N.Central FL. Originally, the grass was just a wild FL. prairie mix. Land was disced up entirely and reseeded, then left to grow in for at least a year. I would say about 5 acres were fenced. We kept 3 horses on the pasture full time with little issue. 65% was cleared and pastured, the remainder had oak trees, both young and old, for shade. We gave hay at each feeding, but not more than 2-3 flakes of Orchard Grass or something similar. The key though was that the pastures were managed. IF there was a drought, the horses were separated into the back field with mostly trees. All pastures were controlled for weeds, fertilized, drug regularly, and mowed at the appropriate times during the growing season. Our horses were fat. A lot of money went into keeping the grass healthy, but it paid off in spades. The grass was a bahiagrass on sand, so it was a tough and drought resistant variety but with the care we gave it the horses had plenty of nutritious forage.

              Fast forward to today. Dad is letting neighbor keep 2-3 minis on the pastures. He is not maintaining the fields. Those minis are now locked in the sacrifice paddock 5/7 days each week because the grass can barely handle it. Bald patches have appeared in areas where there never were any, and they will take down time with fertilizer and re seeding to bring back.

              Management is HUGE. I'd speak to your local ag extension agent about how to best manage your land. Usually these offices are so under utilized that when someone comes in asking questions, they bend over backwards to test your soil and to help you pick the right seed and fertilizer.

              eta: If you haven't already, it would be worth picking up Cherry Hill's Horsekeeping on Small Acerage. It is a pretty good resource on property planning and management.
              Final Furlong Racehorse Retirement

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              • #8
                Our place is only 3 acres, a little over 2 of which house the horses. I have it divided into two turnout areas - a large pasture and a smaller paddock. The paddock serves double duty as a grass arena. You can do it, depending on how you manage it and how fertile the land is. We have three horses that the moment, two whom are stalled at night. (Only two stalls... re: tendency for #horses = #stalls + 1). The third hangs out in the paddock overnight.

                For the most part, we leave the gate open between the two areas. The paddock serves as the sacrifice area if we've just seeded and/or the pasture needs a break. The paddock has a few bald spots in, particularly along well-ridden areas, but it's still mostly grass. The pasture has no bald spots. The ground isn't great - mostly clay - but we seed and fertilize. The rye looks amazing right now. By August, we'll have sprinklers on the bermuda, which suffers more from heat and drought than overgrazing. The horses are currently going through a bale per day, which will increase a bit through the summer. Bottom line is, we're not a dry lot. Depending upon how you manage your 5 acres, you won't be either. It does take work though.
                "I did know once, only I've sort of forgotten." - Winnie the Pooh

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                • #9
                  I have 3 on about 5 in VA. It is divided into 2 larger and 2 smaller fields.
                  Mine around out 24/7 as weather permits, and about half that when it doesn't (probably 4-5 months/year they are inside during the day in summer or night in winter).

                  I do keep them off the better fields during the winter or when it's muddy to preserve the grass.

                  I feed hay most of the year. There are some months in spring/summer when the grass is so nice they turn it down, but I expect to have some on hand at all times, and in later summer and winter there isn't much grass.

                  I did have the soil/water people out, they were extremely nice and do go to great efforts to put together a management plan. Depending on your horsekeeping, though, the plan reads like a grass farm plan--let the grass get to 6" then let the horses eat it down to 4". It involves keeping the horses in 24/7 at times, at others letting them out a few hours a day to keep the grass in peak form. Because mine need to be out more than that, I only treat the 2 nicest grass fields as "grass farm" and let the other 2 get muddy etc as necesary . . .

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                  • #10
                    We have a lot of woods and only about 2 acres in pasture for 2 horses. We have it split up into three paddocks and rotate them around. The land here doesn't lay so well and we would have less damage to the pastures if we had a decent sized graveled dry lot to have them in for turnout during periods of heavy rain. As it is the areas around the gates are mudpits and if the slope is too great they slip and tear out big long divots effectively denuding the slope.

                    I can go check on the GIS for the size of my trainer's pastures, they are nibbled but not dry lots and I know the load she puts on them in Central KY.

                    Large pastures need work and maintenance and small pastures almost need more.
                    Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
                    Incredible Invisible

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                    • #11
                      I keep 2-3 on 2.25 acres. I've got a big graveled sacrifice paddock by the barn that I use at night and when the ground is really saturated (this is the PNW after all). My two acres of pasture is split into 3 pastures that have a slight slope from top pasture to bottom pasture.

                      I use the top one (driest) for winter turnout and they eat it to the ground. As soon as the grass starts growing in spring and the middle one dries out enough they go out there and the top one gets seeded/fertilized. Then when the lowest one dries out they go down there and the middle one gets some love. Then they work their way back up the slope when fall comes.

                      I turn out from 8-12 hours / day year round, ground saturation permitting. My pastures aren't Kentucky lush, but they hold their own and I usually have to mow monthly during from late April - mid September.

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                      • #12
                        Some questions to answer are how much acreage is actually inside fence, and how is it cross fenced. A 5 acre property might only have 3 1/2 of useful pasture. Rotating grazing areas and a sacrifice paddock are crucial.

                        I keep 2 1/3 horses (The 1/3 is a tiny pony, just a little over mini size). I have 10 acres, but just 5 in actual pasture, and it's divided into 2 paddocks. They are out 24/7/365 with access to stalls, and I can maintain the paddocks nicely by rotating, harrowing and overseeding, fertilizing every other year, and I only feed hay 4 months per year.

                        I moved them to a neighor's 4 acre paddock for a while this winter because we reseeded and fertilized the whole place and wanted them off it long enough for the seed to get established. It's one whole paddock, no crossfencing, and I am ASTONISHED at how much more work it to keep it looking halfway decent. I am picking the paddock constantly, as I am reluctant to harrow and have the horses graze over the top of the harrowed manure. It will need reseeding and renovation after the short period of time my horses were on it.

                        So, rotating is crucial. My own regret in my own place is that I didn't allow for a sacrifice area; be able to keep them off the pasture when it's wet is a HUGE maintenence help.

                        If you find a 5 acre place, with 3 acres in pasture, divided, with a sacrifice area around the barn, you can rotate grazing and do a combo of picking and dragging. If the horses are off it 1/2 the day, and you can put them in the sacrifice arear when it's wet, you should be able to maintain decent looking paddocks. You will still probably need to feed hay ~ 8 - 9 months of the year.

                        McGurk's rule: The larger the acreage per horse, the lower the cost to keep and the work to maintain. Smaller acreage - more expensive to keep and more work to maintain. Best of luck to you!
                        Last edited by McGurk; Feb. 8, 2013, 06:28 PM.
                        The plural of anecdote is not data.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Have had 3 horses on about 3 acres, currently have the equivalent of 3 horses on the same acreage 1 QH, 1 Draft. Divided into two fields and one sacrifice/dry lot area (60 x 100 divided into 2 runs 30 x 100 with run-in access). My sacrifice area is gated so that there is access from both the front and back fields so all traffic goes through the sacrifice so no excess wear and tear at gates. I also have my waterer in the sacrifice area to cut down on mud/wear problems in the field. Can close the approriate gates to give a specific field rest. Do some reseeding and have them sprayed for weeds and fertilized in the Spring. I don't let them out on pasture (put in sacrifice area) if ground is too soft from rain and in late fall horses come off somewhere between October 1 and November 1 depending on our weather and don't get to go back out until April 1. Sometimes will give them a treat and let them out if the ground is frozen so minimal turf damage. I go through a bale of hay (70# bales)per day in the winter. They are out 8-12 hours per day and in at night. During summer I do supplement with a couple flakes of hay each while they are in but both are basically easy keepers so not too much, go through about another 30 bales April-Oct. I feel a really important issue in making this work is manure removal, I try to do this at least once per week, but usually 2-3 times per week and always when I change fields. I do not re-spread or drag my fields I remove it all together. I am fortunate to be able to have someone that can remove it from the property once the muck pit is full, I know not everyone can do that.
                          "They spend 11 months stuggling to live, and 25 years trying to die" my farrier

                          "They are dangerous on both ends and crafty in the middle"

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                          • #14
                            I do it.
                            My total property is 5ac and my house & surrounding lawn/garden probably take up an acre.
                            I have one 17h horse and one 12h pony now, but had 2 geldings - 16h & 17h - on it for the first 5 years.

                            Barn is between 2 pastures with my sacrifice paddock being the area - maybe 250'X50' - that separates the 2 pastures and surrounds the front of the barn.
                            I can close off either pasture, but except for Year One when I had the smaller field drill-seeded, I haven't.

                            My pastures are far from lush (what others said about management is 100% true) & I feed hay year-round, but a lot less when there's grass.
                            I do zip to maintain my pastures, they are former bean/corn fields.
                            No seeding, fertilizing or picking. I do mow them - maybe twice a Summer? - and "mulch" the piles of manure by mowing over them.

                            Only in the last 2 years have they morphed into something that appears purposefully kept for pasture. Grass comes in , weeds are not too awful and horses are happy out on it 24/7.

                            FWIW: I am in the Midwest.
                            *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                            Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                            Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                            Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015

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                            • #15
                              I had 10 on about 9 acres fenced in KY. I had 3 or 4 in the barn on either day or night turnout. The rest were out 24/7. This farm grew lots of grass. I had 4 turnouts of under an acre each, 2 horses max at a time in these. The "big" pasture (6 acres) was cross-fenced in two, and occasionally I would further divide one of the halves again with a strand of hot wire. The only time I had almost dry-lot conditions was during a drought. Pasture rotation is a beautiful thing.

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                              • #16
                                I am in Tennessee (but pretty darn close to Kentucky). I have 4.5 acres with just under 3 acres in pasture and 2 horses and a donkey turned out 24/7. This is our first year here, but I have plenty of grass. We will eventually fence off more "yard" into paddocks just to be able to rotate.

                                Has anyone read the book "Horse Keeping On Small Acreage" by Cherry Hill? I hear it's good... I just haven't ordered a copy, yet.
                                Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO

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                                • #17
                                  Heck yeah it can work, just depends on your acres!
                                  “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey

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                                  • #18
                                    Absolutely. A good sacrifice lot and rotation grazing between the grass paddocks is key. If you are already planning on only night turn out I think it would be pretty easy to do. Depending on what part of KY you are talking about, it can get really muddy here in the winter. You might not be able to turn out in the grass paddocks much of the winter if you want to keep the grass really nice, so having a nice big sacrifice paddock with good footing is important (we use stone dust in our small dry lot). The bluegrass area of KY tends to grow grass incredibly well, so you'd likely be surprised at how much grazing the paddocks can handle. My 3 acre pasture that I use year round is a sloppy mess all winter- you would never think grass would grow after how muddy it gets- but every spring it comes back strong. I do have to control weeds more in that field. I have a separate field for "good" grazing that I wouldn't use in the mud season.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      I have a large gelding and a medium pony on around 2 cleared acres, there is still another 2.5 acres in trees. That 2 acres also includes the house, gardens, manure pile, cross-ties, ducks, and geese. They each have about a quarter acre of dry lot, the pony because she is prone to laminitis, and the gelding because he is not a big grass eater, in fact he has grass in his paddock year round, that's how little he cares for it. I do not have a barn, the horses are retired and live out in shelters year round.
                                      My blog: Crackerdog Farm

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                                      • #20
                                        We have 3 horses on our place, which is 10 acres total, but due to the slope and layout, my barn, paddocks, and current pasture area are way less than 5 acres. I'm in the PNW so had to plan for wet and mud, so we put in small dry (gravel) paddocks off the barn so the horses have some turnout year round. Then my pasture is used when weather allows and I use temp fencing to split it up for rotation. Right now, I have only about 2 acres of pasture because we put in an arena last fall. But we have another area cleared that once we get it cleaned up more and seeded, will give me another acre.

                                        I'd love to have more room, but this is what I have for now so I make it work. Key thing for me was having the dry turnouts and then rotating the pasture areas when they do get used. I also keep manure picked up everywhere, so less muck and bugs. We compost and spread the compost on pasture in fall (when it starts to rain and I have areas that won't be used for the winter) and also on our new pasture-to-be areas. I can see the barn, arena, and dry paddocks from house, but not the pasture, so when they get looking a bit ragged, at least I don't see it.

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