Warming weather means a few exciting and not-so-exciting things for equestrians:
2. The possibility of riding outside very soon!
4. Shedding season!
6. No more blanketing!
8. Easier travel!
10. No more dressing in 50 layers!
Obviously I think mud is important! But what does mud have to do with nutrition? More than you might think. As the ground thaws and the weather warms, the grasses in our pastures start to grow. This is a good thing! It also means our ponies are catching spring fever and loving the opportunity to gallop and play – creating all that mud. Although this is a good thing for them, it is almost certain death to those little grasses trying to get established. If the grasses had their way, no ponies would be allowed out until the growth was at least 6 inches high. But then the ponies would go crazy, right? There are a few management strategies you can use to accommodate both your ponies and grasses so that your pastures can look tip top for summer and supply sufficient feed for your horses.
1. Reduce the number of horses per pasture. Try and keep a 0.5 – 1 horse per acre maximum.
2. Limit turnout time. Try turning out the horses during the night when the ground has a chance to harden up. This might also limit the amount of mud you have to remove from your pony, an added perk! Or try to limit turnout to only a few hours a day.
3. Make a designated paddock. If your horses need to be out all the time, section off a piece of your pasture and sacrifice the grass there. Typically, grass growth is limited near gates and water troughs so those areas would be ideal. Moveable electric fence is awesome for this.
4. Divide your pastures. For example: if you have a 6 acre pasture, divide it into at least 2 parts. Let the grasses get established in one part and then rotate animals accordingly until the grasses have been established in all parts of the pasture. Again, moveable electric fence is great for this. Just remember that horses are smart and may test the fence (or jump it…) once they see all that luscious grass growing on the other side.
I know all of these are so difficult when spring is upon us and our horses want to be out. However, your pasture productivity will increase dramatically if you can let your grasses establish well in the spring. If you are interested in pasture management tips for your barn, give me a call to schedule a consult!