How Many Horses Per Acre?

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How Many Horses Per Acre?

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    11-09-2011, 07:30 PM
How Many Horses Per Acre?

What would you say is a good number of horses/acre? Currently we have four horses on about one acre, but they have free-choice hay year-round.

I've heard that some people say a good rule is one horse every one acre, but then again I've seen plenty of places that have much less than that with quite a few more horses. Does it really hurt to have this many horses on one acre? I take them out and work with them weekly, so they don't really just stay there. They have room to run plenty; obviously not for miles upon miles but a decent ammount.

We do have more land that we could plant and fence off, which I know we'll have too sooner or later. (Our pasture was overgrazed in late spring when we only had 2 horses, next spring it'll have to feed four.)

We have alot of land that is rented out to a farmer. The land is worth quite a bit, and it is worth more as farm land than it is for grazing. My father tells me that if I can figure out a plan to make money we might start boarding horses. (I know it is lots of work, I have been taking care of my own horses for years.) But that goal is far off, we'll wait till next year where we plan to build an indoor arena and a few stalls.

So what is the bare minimum for room? We are trying to set something up a little bit better. I am going to try rotational grazing to keep good pastures. We have a 3-sided barn for them to go into, but we are planning on moving that to a different part of our pasture. That means we'll have to do a huge switch. We gotta move our tack room, run a water line and the electricity over to the new spot. Big ordeal, so I think we'll do something new with the whole pasture-situation.

What is the minimum of space per horse?
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    11-09-2011, 07:36 PM
That will depend on your by-law
    11-09-2011, 07:37 PM
Well that depends how much work you really want to put into it. I've heard the 1 horse per acre rule too, and if I had my way it'd be more like 3 per horse. More horses per acre, the more bickering there is likely to be, more poop to scoop, and more hay you gotta feed.

I'm lucky enough to have 3 acres of rotation for my one mare, and it's great because I only feed hay once a day all year except winter/late spring.
    11-09-2011, 08:24 PM
Green Broke
I have 1 horse on 8, even with 2 horses I only feed hay in the winter. It all depends on your land and the climate. I imagine an area like Va with a long growning season and decent rain in the summer usually can support more horses per acre than an area under feet of snow half the year or drought and tumble weeds the other half. I wouldnt put 4 on one acre way to much hay money. Horses get real expensive if you have to feed hay all year.
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    11-09-2011, 08:35 PM
I am assuming you mean how many horses will the land sustain in grazing? That depends on climate, pasture condition, and type of grasses planted.
    11-11-2011, 03:42 PM
If you mean just amount of land for turnout on bare ground for horses, 1/4 acre per horse to prevent bickering and such. If you have horses that know eachother really well, you can get away with less, but with boarders, you want to have that amount. I have a friend who keeps 3 horses on just over a 1/4 of an acre, but they have lived with eachother in larger inclosers for at least 3 years, two of them 8 years.
    11-17-2011, 09:37 PM
Another idea you could do, is if you have like 10 horses to an acre, is to fence off parts of that acre to keep the horses separate. At the farm I work at, she has about 3 acres of land, w/ 20 horses out at once, but all separated. And like everyone else said too, depends on your climate.
    11-19-2011, 05:45 PM
You could get a range or pasture hoop, clip the grass, calculate the amount of forage per acre, adjust for growth year, amount grown so far and percent dry weight, divide that by half (to determine the available amount that will actually be utilized). Convert that to AUM (animal unit months) by dividing by 912. When you get the AUM's produced in your entire pasture, divide by 1.25 (the animal unit equivalent of an average sized horse) and you have the number of horses your pasture can sustain for ONE MONTH.

OR go to your local university extension office, soil and water conservation district or NRCS office and they may be able to help you out.

A good general rule of thumb is on nonirrigated, dryland pastures one horse per 4 acres, and on irrigated one horse per 2 acres (but then you get into trouble with trampling on wet ground ruining the seed bed for next year)

Sorry to go a little nerdy on this, but soil conservation and grasses and good productive lands are my passions, besides horses.

ALSO a good rule of thumb, if rotating cross fenced pastures: take them out when the grass is at 3 inches, put them in then it is a t 6 inches.
    11-19-2011, 06:43 PM
Karliejaye has already made a good point there. In addition to that, each state has a different "Stocking-Rate" in their laws. I know for Colorado, it is 1 horse per 5 acres - this is how much acreage you need, to have enough grass to sustain the horse for one year without feeding additional forage (hay, for example) or other supplements.
Tennessee has a stocking rate of 1 horse on 2 acres - again, taking nutritional value, grass growth, soil quality, etc. into consideration.

    11-19-2011, 06:46 PM
I'm at 8 acres to the horse here

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