Guide to Setting Up a Horse Paddock
Having an easy-to-maintain, horse-friendly paddock is a huge plus when it comes to raising and keeping happy horses. Having a perfect paddock will be great for your horse’s health, more time-efficient for you, a pleasure to look at, and much better for the environment.
In this piece, we’ll cover everything you need to know in order to set up a paddock and keep it healthy and vigorous.
Resting Your Pasture
One of the most critical aspects of managing a pasture is the knowing when it’s time to take the horses off the land; by doing this, you improve the health and nutrition of your grazing areas.
Pastures need time to rest to allow them the space to grow and reinvigorate. It’s crucial never to let your animals graze below three inches – if this happens, the grass plants will begin to lose strength and vigour. Once the grass starts to die, you will begin to see patches of bare soil – which will be dusty in the summer – and weeds taking control of the pasture.
When this happens, the pasture can get waterlogged in the winter, and mud, as we all know, is inconvenient and unpleasant, and during summer, the ground will become cracked and dry.
Horses grazing on the muddy or dusty ground have a high chance of ingesting dirt or sand particles, which leads to a severe digestive disorder called colic.
Creating a paddock means you keep your horses in good health until the pasture is fully recovered in the warmer months.
If you haven’t already chosen an area for your paddock, you’ll need to select an appropriate place for your new site. Choose an area situated away from rivers, streams or marshlands, on higher ground. If at all possible, it’s a good idea to choose an area that has a slight slope, since this will help with run-off.
Some horse owners prefer to keep one horse in each paddock, as it’s easier to monitor each horse’s health and to regulate diet. Individual paddocks also prevent more dominant horses bullying subordinates and backing them into a corner, where a serious injury can occur.
That said, if horses can’t see one another it can lead to boredom, stress and depression, so you’ll have to decide what’s best based on how your animals behave.
Suitable Paddock Sizes
The size of your horse’s paddock can vary, but if you want your horse to be able to run around and play, you’ll need an area of about 20-30 feet wide x 100 feet long.
The amount of land you have, the number of horses, how old they are, how they react to each other and the amount of exercise they need, will all be crucial when determining the size of each paddock.
Using a paddock also means you’ll have better control of horse waste, which makes it easier to muck out. Mucking out every one to three days helps reduce the number of flies and insects, while also reducing the likelihood of mud development. You can compost whatever you collect and spread it across the pasture throughout the growing season too.
By installing rain gutters and roof run-off systems on your barns, you can divert rainwater away from your horse’s paddock, to reduce mud formation and prevent horse manure and urine from washing out of the paddock.
When you think about how much rain we have over the winter in the UK (and in summer for that matter), you can begin to see how important it is to divert water to prevent mud build-up, which is a haven for bacteria.
Diverting rainwater to another part of your property means you can recycle it for other purposes.
Safe Fence Installation
Whatever fencing you do ultimately decide on, you will need to reinforce it with electric tape or wire, just to create that psychological barrier.
Be extra sure that is it secure, and there are no protruding objects such as bolts, nails, wood splinters or anything that the horse could harm themselves on. There should also be no exposed electric fence wiring or cords, and no machinery should ever be stored in the paddock.
When to Use Your New Paddock
Your animals should be kept in their paddocks over winter and early spring to prevent them from crushing the grass while it’s still dormant, and mushing up the soggy soil. In the summer, bring your horses back into the paddock when grazing goes below the 3 inches, as we talked about earlier.
Paddocks are also ideal for confining animals. This could be necessary for numerous reasons, such as controlling diet, caring for sick or injured horses, or just keeping individual horses away from others.
Limit grazing time in spring, initially starting at an hour at a time. After that you can begin to increase the time spent on the pasture over the next few weeks.
It’s also important to remember that even though your horses can move around freely in the paddock, they still need a regular exercise programme over winter for their overall health and to prevent boredom.
By using the tips in this blog, you’ll be able to create a friendly environment for your horses, with less mud, fewer pests and far healthier pastures.
This also means, of course, that you’ll have a healthier horse that’s pleasant to be around and socialise with.
If you have any questions about paddocks or pastures, or you’d like to learn about any of our other products, then why not contact us today and we’d be happy to help.