Interesting look on things. - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 26 Old 01-02-2014, 07:38 PM Thread Starter
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Question Interesting look on things.

This is going to be interesting topic but do u believe in winter pasture grazing? I personally think there is nothing wrong with it if u monitor how deep the snow is & u have minerals to balance what the grass lacks. However at our farm we have given the choice to our horses. Their choices are either to stay in a sheltered paddock that's about 1/4 mile long with a good quality round bale. Their other choice is they could go too their pasture which has about any where from 1/2 ft of snow to a 1ft, and they only have a little bit of a wind break at the far south side; the grass is tall but has to be pawed at to get. What I have found from this little experiment is that my horse would rather paw for their food all day unless it is too windy outside. I have also heard that winter grazing is great for a horse teeth because a horse needs that ripping motion to wear down their teeth. This being said I have different view on winter grazing for ponies.

I have also realized my horses would rather eat their hay off the ground rather then eating it out of a round bale. One other thing I know a person who has a horse who is about 30yrs old and he lets her winter graze and they only have snow to eat, he also does feed her some grain. Also she has lived like this all of her life.
So what are your thoughts is it cruel to winter graze? Or is letting a horse paw for too much work for the average horse? Do u think it is cruel for horse who are "not" worked to only get snow?

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post #2 of 26 Old 01-02-2014, 08:07 PM
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Interesting question..

Rewind back to when I lived in the UK and I would say HECK NO

7 years of living in the ice world, horses do not NEED water and hay provided, they are a grazing animal that will survive, I choose to provide hay, heated water and minerals, I choose not blanket, or feed grain.
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post #3 of 26 Old 01-02-2014, 08:07 PM
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Our horses are lazy. They would bury their heads in the hay bale instead of pawing through the snow. Some have got loose on occasion and went for the hay bales instead of looking for grass.

Edit: As for just having snow for water, they can get by with it but it is healthier and easier for them to digest with actual water. Having an open creek running through the pasture is OK. If not, you should supply a water trough.
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post #4 of 26 Old 01-02-2014, 08:13 PM
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I think my horses have been doing this :p My gelding is outside 24/7 no matter what in the winter, doesn't use the shelter and digs up grass he gets no supplements aside from the salt lick. We do give him grain but he's about the size of a small draft so he gets pretty ribby on just grass and hay. We put a round bale out but it's gone in half a day and coincidentally he dissapears until it's all gone.... I don't see anything wrong with it so long as the horse is cared for adequately. I think it makes a better horse to be out in as natural an environment as possible.
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post #5 of 26 Old 01-02-2014, 08:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Golden Horse View Post
7 years of living in the ice world, horses do not NEED water and hay provided, they are a grazing animal that will survive, I choose to provide hay, heated water and minerals
That decision is very subjective on how much acreage the horses have. Is the pasture large enough to provide an entire winter's worth of forage for a single horse, much less a herd?

They may survive, sure, but are they being adequately nourished?

Remember, horses in the wild may travel miles in a day and never pass the same pasture area twice. If there's no grass in one spot, walk 20 feet and try again. Repeat day in and day out, hour after hour. Horses in a confined paddock don't have the option to just move on when the winter grass is exhausted inside their paddock/pasture.

If you're taking horses that have the benefit of countless tens or hundreds of acres of open pasture things are different, but again, that's not typical around here at least.
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post #6 of 26 Old 01-02-2014, 08:24 PM
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I remember my Mom telling me that when she was a child growing up in the 30's that a number of the farmers in their area (south east Saskatchewan) would turn their horses loose in the winter to find their own forage (my Grandfather did not follow this practice and always put up enough hay for themselves). She also said it was usual to find the ones that survived to spring were all extremely underweight.
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post #7 of 26 Old 01-02-2014, 08:25 PM
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Our horses and cattle used to stand out in the wind, rain, and snow when we lived in WVA even though they had access to the barn. My pansy AZ ponies run under the tree when it sprinkles. I think it's just a matter of what they are used to.
As far as food even if yours have a lot of forage, I would still provide something else just to make sure they are getting enough nutrients.

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post #8 of 26 Old 01-02-2014, 08:26 PM Thread Starter
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Well the pasture my horses have is about 1/4 mile by 1/2 mile, so that would last them all winter if they wanted it but they do have lots of hay too, if they wanted it. All I can say it sure saves on feeding costs and if by chance we have a drought they will had plenty hay left over. We go through a round bale ever 3weeks for 3 horses. It used to be a bale a week when we didn't offer the pasture.
Also the great thing about winter grazing it helps on fertilizing the pasture.
The only reason we are letting them out now is because we have too much pasture and it gives them more exercise and stimulation.
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post #9 of 26 Old 01-02-2014, 08:44 PM
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This is my second winter here and I have fenced in the (too small to be useful) hay field for their winter pasture. Last year they moved into the summer pasture in September so there was plenty of grass left.

So I give them some hay (armfuls) morning and night, and the rest of the time they are grazing digging in the snow. I call it freeze dried hay I love the fact that it's perfectly dry when the snow comes, and there's no messy mud around. They get tons of exercise moving around choosing where to dig, and they are all as fat as hippopotami.

I provide heated water and as yet no ration balancers but as this is our second year here I may reconsider that next summer.
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post #10 of 26 Old 01-02-2014, 08:44 PM
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A number of years ago we sent my gelding to my BIL's farm in Saskatchewan where he was winter pastured ( I thought he was being fed in the yard). When we got him back in the spring, he was very underweight, and I was heartbroken. He may have done OK if he was accustomed to foraging or if there was supplementary hay available, but neither was the case. After this experience, I would be very hesitant to agree that winter foraging is enough for a domesticated horse. I think most horses have become accustomed to being fed regularly. Wild horses do survive on grazing alone, but their body does not maintain the condition we expect of their domesticated counterparts.

That said, grazing is good for them as it encourages them to stay active, it keeps their teeth in better condition and wears their hooves a bit. In my opinion however, it is not an adequate substitute for regular feeding, floating and farrier work, especially in horses that are worked regularly. The quality and amount of forage must also be monitored carefully, with availability of good forage changing with every snowfall / freeze -thaw cycle. I am also a bit skeptical that horses get enough moisture from only eating snow.
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