Managing Your Paddock
Correctly managing your paddock can make a big difference to the amount of grazing available for your horses and help it to withstand the pressure of horses.
Horse’s paddocks often have to provide diet for 365 days a year, provide an area for resting and playing, and often an area for exercise.
Quality grassland is essential for year-round grazing because good quality grazing pasture is the healthiest and most natural diet for horses and has the potential for areas to be closed off for hay/haylage production to provide winter feed (which has been very expensive to buy the last few winters).
Managing grass for horses is totally different to managing for agricultural animals. Paddocks tend to be small and are often intensively grazed by nothing other than horses, and most owners like, or need, to be able to use paddocks all year round. Horses also require very different nutritive supply compared to productive cattle and sheep.
Alongside low productivity, poorly managed fields can be the source of many internal parasites and poisonous plants. Similarly, soil ingestion from mole hills or large bare patches can cause colic.
Poorly managed paddocks will look shabby, be wet and waterlogged and subject to increased poaching and become unsuitable for riding or even in extremes, turnout.
A well-kept paddock can provide the most natural and healthy environment for work, rest and play for our equine companions!
Basic Paddock Maintenance
- Looking at the condition of your paddock should be a daily task and can easily be completed while you do other tasks such as lifting droppings, checking fencing, and water troughs.
- Throughout your paddock, look for any signs of bare spots that may be starting to develop, whilst keeping an eye out for new/young weeds that may be coming through.
- After it rains, check to see if anywhere is sitting in water for longer than expected and keep an eye out for any unnatural wet spots developing which may be from burst drains or water pipes to troughs.
- If there are ditches around the fields then clearing these when necessary will make a big difference to the drainage of the field.
Before you call in a contractor or invest in serious machinery, remember there are a number of hand tools you can use to undertake some of the smaller maintenance tasks.
- A metal shavings fork can be used in place of a rake for ‘harrowing’ patches
- A straw/manure fork can be used in small areas to break down through compacted soils
- A soil corer makes soil sampling easier but a spade and trowel are an alternative