Any small-acreage horse owner knows that unless you have a good paddock maintenance system, horses will quickly degrade a pasture. Why is this?
Quite simply, horses are not designed to be kept in small paddocks. In their natural habitat horses are ‘browsers’, travelling around 5km a day to graze and often not returning to the same area. So when horses eat off, manure in and move around the same area 24 hours a day, it’s easy to see why the pasture quickly gets destroyed.
To add to the problem, horses won’t graze in areas soiled by manure, but do have a special talent for eating down the grass they do like almost to the ground. As a result, the parts of the paddock with manure are left untouched, while the rest of the paddock has very short grass that can quickly into bare ground. Because a paddock like this has lost it’s nutritional value, it usually means expensive hay bills. What’s more, the increasing bare patches will turn into mud and can cause all sorts of health problems.
Sacrifice areas = cleaner and healthier paddocks
So how can you maintain your paddock to keep it healthy and mud-free? Many experts say you should graze a horse paddock for two weeks then rest it for four. Unfortunately, many of us don’t have a enough spare land to leave two-thirds of our paddocks unused, so instead we can use an option called a sacrifice paddock.
A sacrifice paddock is a smaller area that you confine your horse to for parts of each day, in order to keep your main paddock healthy. You can feed hay in the sacrifice area when necessary, but this means when you let your horse out to graze, they are getting the nutritional benefits of a healthy pasture. You can also use it to keep them off the pasture altogether in wet periods.
There are several factors to consider when making a sacrifice paddock, such as size, footing and drainage. This guide to constructing a sacrifice paddock will help you plan for yours.
Paddock cleaning and manure management
To look after a horse paddock properly, it is essential you have good manure management. Some people harrow their paddocks, but this can kill the pasture and cause parasites to spread. A far healthier and more effective solution is to collect the manure and compost it, using the compost to fertilize the paddock during pasture growing season. Learn more about how to manage and compost your manure here.
If you don’t have the time or willpower to get out there with a wheelbarrow every day, a paddock cleaner like a paddock blade is a fast, easy way to collect the manure and dump it on your new compost heap.
Paddock maintenance made easy
Now you have some information and resources to help you maintain your pastures better. There will be some work involved, but the reduced feed bills and happier horses will make it more than worth it.
One thing that will save you a lot of time in your paddock maintenance is investing in a Paddock Blade. This will make it easy to keep your pasture clean so it stays healthier for longer. They’re very simple to use, and are durable even on very uneven and rocky horse paddock surfaces. Have a look at https://paddockblade.co.uk/shop/paddock-blade/.
Happy paddock maintaining!