How to Maintain a Horse Pasture

May 7, 2018
Casey Hahn, CCA & Mike Kuffel, CPAg, CCA
Stocking Rate
The recommendation is one horse per 2 acres.

Generally, it is suggested to wait until the grass is 8-10” tall before your horses begin grazing. An easy way to check the height of the grass is to put a water bottle on the ground. If the grass is taller than the bottle, it is ok to graze.

Grass is tall enough to be grazing.

Label is very visible. Do NOT graze.

Remove animals at 4” (or when you can fully read the label on your water bottle) to allow a rest/regrowth of the grasses.

Begin grazing your horses for 20 minutes per day.  An additional 20 minutes can be added to their grazing time for each day that follows.  Slow introduction to new feed is important to your animal’s gut health.

Creating several pastures to practice Rotational Grazing is a great way to maintain the longevity of your pastures. Rotational grazing can allow for several days in each pasture. This allows you to manage the pasture better and prevent grazing grass below 4” in height. Once pasture 1 has reached 4” in height, close the gate and resume the allotted grazing time in pasture #2, etc. This also allows for fertilizing and mowing of weeds in pasture #1 while it is re-growing.

Choosing what to plant
LaCrosse BLM #4 is our recommended pasture mix for horses. It is known for quick establishment, being endophyte free, and withstanding hot/dry summers. BLM #4 contains 5 species of palatable grasses: 

There are several different ways to re-seed your pasture, but these are two of the most common methods:

Tilling - Plow under everything, pick stones, and then level the ground and spread grass seed. Re-seed at rates of 30-40 lbs per acre. Seeding is generally done in spring. Plowing can be done in fall or spring.

Frost Seeding-  This is usually done in February or March. Lightly seed over your current pasture. The freeze/thaw of the ground provides enough moisture and seed-to-soil contact for the grasses to grow. Fertilizer can also be applied at this time. This method will work best if the pasture was grazed or mowed tight to the ground the previous fall.

Is your pasture’s color looking dull? Is the grass the greenest only around manure piles? Has your pasture never been fertilized? If you answered 'yes' to any of these questions, it might be time to fertilize. Basic fertilizer like 19-17-17 is a great place to start. Begin with 150-200lbs to the acre, applying it with a fertilizer spreader.

Soil sampling is a great way to make sure you’re applying the correct kinds and amounts of fertilizer. 6-8 soil cores should be collected for every 5 acres (or per pasture if you want more precision). Sample results will be back in 2 weeks and an Agronomist at Country Visions can help fine-tune a fertilizer prescription for you.

Horses are selective grazers. Throughout summer, patches of weeds will appear. A simple solution is to mow weeds before they produce seeds. If practicing Rotational Grazing, mowing weeds as horses graze around them can be very effective.

Spraying weeds is another solution. 2,4-D products are designed to kill broadleaf weeds. Round-up will kill everything, including your grass, so use with caution. Country Visions recommends the product Grazon Next for pastures. It will kill broadleaves, including thistles.
Horses will avoid grazing in areas where manure is built up. To get full use of your pasture, clean up and remove manure every few weeks. Maintaining a clean pasture will also reduce areas for weeds to grow and parasites to live.