How to manage your horse paddock

How to manage your horse paddock
How to manage your horse paddock

There are several things to consider when managing and maintaining your horse paddock – so whether you’re starting from scratch in a recently acquired acre or are a seasoned pony professional, there is lots you can learn from our ultimate guide.

Knowing how to manage your horse paddock and staying on top of your paddock's regular maintenance brings about many benefits to both horses and owners alike. Of course, it allows your horse or pony to graze on nutritious, clean grass but also maximises grass production, which can help horse owners produce a cost-effective feed. So is your current paddock grass taking advantage of these benefits, and is it time to manage your horse paddock, or to repair or reseed?

Tips to manage your horse paddock:

To repair or reseed?

Horse owners often look to their paddock and wonder if it’s time to reseed or repair patches where poaching has occurred. Over time all paddocks yield and quality get worse. However, there are many factors to consider when taking a paddock out to reseed, particularly as many equestrians face land limitations.

With anything, how you manage your horse paddock entirely depends on the amount of use a paddock gets before it requires a total reseed, but as a guide of one horse per acre, we would recommend a reseed after seven years. If there are more horses per acre, then the field will require rejuvenating more often. Often horse owners will find the only option is to repair the paddock by overseeding as required. Whatever option is suitable for your circumstances, we have prepared some advice:

Soil sampling

Whether you are overseeding or reseeding when managing your horse paddock, it is worth bearing in mind the value of getting a soil sample from the paddock - particularly if it has been neglected for a few years. Take the soil sample to a local agricultural agent to analyse the soil and heed their advice when receiving the results by treating and/or improving the soil as required.

When it comes to overseeding or reseeding it is important to sow at the correct time of year. Most grass species will germinate at 8-10 degrees and above, so this means sowing throughout spring, summer and autumn when the weather is mild / warm but still brings the odd rainy day. Seeding or overseeding a new paddock follows similar rules to sowing a lawn, but there other some other rules that apply.

Overseeding the existing paddock / repairing

  • Mow the grass as short as possible
  • Harrow with a chain or tine harrow to boost growth
  • Seed at a rate of 6kg per acre
  • Roll afterwards to provide good seed to soil contact

Sowing a new ley in the paddock / reseed

To lay a field with grass seed suitable for horse grazing you will need to have the field ploughed and a good even seedbed created. The ideal seedbed will be free from rocks / boulders, weeds and other debris.

  • Harrow with a chain or tine harrow to boost growth
  • Seed at a rate of 12kg per acre
  • Roll afterwards to provide good seed to soil contact

After reseeding we recommend horses are kept off the grass for approximately 8 weeks. The grass is ready to be grazed when it stands the ‘Pull Test’; the grass blades can be pulled from the sward without removing the roots. Whilst the grass is establishing, ensure you have prepared alternative grazing area for the horses. As is natural with all reseeds, be prepared to take weed control measures 5 weeks after sowing by cutting the new ley. Most annual weeds will mow out.

Choosing the right grass

Ideally many equestrians would prefer a grass seed that is both useful for hay and provides a good base for grazing. We recommend sectioning off your paddock with one small section producing high yielding grass for hay whilst the other section offers nutritious grass for grazing.

To really give yourself the highest yield along with grazing your horse it is wise to invest in a grass seed which produces high quality swards. Our NURTURE: Paddock (12kg) includes a small range of specially selected hardwearing grass species which will produce a quality hay for 5 years plus. Grass seed varieties within NURTURE: Paddock include:

Alternatively, you may require a mixture which improves the structure of the soil and produces a long-term grazing paddock such as our NURTURE: Paddock with herbs mix. The mixture also includes nutritious species which will benefit your horse’s diet. NURTURE: Paddock with herbs includes:

Our NURTURE: Paddock Overseeder is the same mix, but in a convenient 6kg bag for overseeding use.

Maintenance Calendar

Once your paddock is established (up to 8 weeks after sowing), regular maintenance of your horse paddock will bring many benefits to both horses and owners alike.

Problems with horse or pony paddocks come from a variety of sources such as boggy areas, weeds and moss, compacted soil, and bare or patchy grass caused by poaching leaving them tough to maintain. As the seasons change paddock owners need to adjust their maintenance and upkeep activities accordingly to combat these problems arising.

Easy-to-follow steps to manage your horse paddock for each season:

Spring Paddock Maintenance

  1. Analyse soil and buy a good paddock fertiliser to help boost grass growth
  2. Harrow to remove dead grass and level off poaching areas to promote new grass growth for the spring and summer
  3. Roll to repair damage caused during winter
  4. Reseed areas where required such as gateways and fence lines
  5. Top grass if required – keeping grass length above 5cm.

Summer Paddock Maintenance

  1. Top grass
  2. Cut hay
  3. Weed control
  4. Re-seed paddock grass late August.

Autumn Maintenance

  1. Top for final tie before winter
  2. Chain harrowing by removing dead grass and level off poaching areas
  3. Drainage management.

Winter Paddock Maintenance

  1. Paddock rotation
  2. Fencing
  3. Test the soil’s pH and Nutrient levels.

Tips to manage your horse paddock all year round

  • Remove droppings regularly - Horses don’t like to graze on soiled areas. Removing droppings regularly will help prevent weeds and reduce parasites.
  • Avoid overgrazing - This will stop the appearance of patchy areas which encourage weed growth.
  • Test your soils - Check soil pH and index of phosphorus, potash and magnesium are at the correct levels.
  • Remove poisonous plants - If grazing is in short supply, horses may eat poisonous weeds such as ragwort.

Say ‘neigh’ to wildflowers!

Although horses and other animals are intelligent and by using their scent can work out what is and what isn’t poisonous, it’s best not to put anything in front of them that could potentially harm them.

Wildflowers such as Buttercups, Foxgloves and Ragwort are poisonous to horses and are present in all of our wildflower mixes, therefore we would not recommend sowing any of our wildflower seed mixes, or any others, near your horses.