Preparing a pasture
So, my boyfriend boards his draft cross about ten minutes away from his house. He has decided that he wants to fence off a corner of his field and just keep the horse there to save on boarding (Our board is $150 for pasture boarding.) I am so completely against this for several reasons.
Firstly, the field is crap. It's got a dirt bike dirt track going around the outside, tons of sand burrs, nasty weeds, and gophers. So many gophers, which means tons of gopher holes. He's convinced he can just trap them all, or tear up the section of the field with the loader and replant it. (As far as I know, if you reseed a field like that, doesn't it take a while for it to be horse ready?) I mentioned this and he replied with "Well I'm sure other pastures have gophers in them, and they're just fine. His current pasture doesn't have any, I'm sure we can just trap them all." Also, they have a LOT of old junk in the field - old farm equipment, cars, random junk. I'm worried that, if Levi gets out, he'll seriously hut himself if he panics.
Secondly, we have no idea what kind of 'grass' it is. Lots of poison ivy and johnson grass (worried about johnson grass poisoning). It looks like a whole lot of weeds to me.
Thirdly, there isn't a shelter. No trees, nothing synthetic. Just flat (with a few dirt bike jumps). He doesn't have anything to keep the hay in, and quite frankly, I think a draft cross should have more than an acre or two of flat boring pasture (if you can call it a pasture at all, with the quality it is.)
Fourth, the horse would be all by himself. He's become herdbound since I took Clementine (his sister) up to school with me. Jack wants to get a donkey to be the horse's buddy so he isn't lonely. I feel like a donkey would not be adequate - they're completely different species! Not to mention we don't have any idea about donkey care or training. (He hates training. I am doubting he would do anything with the donkey but feed it and pet it when he goes out there).
Fifth, he's doing this because he wants to save the $150 per month. I feel like, between all of the costs (hay, donkey and donkey's care, more fencing, did I mention the hay?) and the work that goes into it, it wouldn't even be worth it. Not including all of the initial work of prepping the field, just the month to month. Not to mention the double farrier care for the donkey, double meds, double the work!
He's is the kind of person who wants to do something, like own a horse or have a dog, but doesn't really want to do the nitty gritty, not necessarily as pleasant stuff. He complained about sheath cleaning for quite a while (trying to bribe me into doing it), and won't train Levi because he doesn't enjoy it and says he likes it when levi shoves him and does what he wants. ("But it means he likes me! He has personality!" when the horse has the WORST ground manners I've ever seen) and because he doesn't like to, he just likes trail riding. He does to a slight extent, occasionally trying to get him in the barn and work with him in there. Levi panics in the barn (Part of being herdbound) and so he just saddles him up outside so he doesn't have to deal with it. I love him very much (Don't get me wrong... As much as it may not seem, I love him with all my heart and kind of find his animal cluelessness adorable sometimes!), but I don't think he has any idea just what he's proposing here! He loves animals, but to be honest it seems like he is somewhat clueless about them sometimes.
I don't know much about prepping a pasture either, only that I haven't managed to talk him out of it because I don't really know much of what I'm talking about. What do you all think? Would this be a good idea? Am I right that it would cost more? (We'd be buying hay from MN). Would a donkey really be a suitable buddy for a huge horse, enough that it wouldn't get lonely? How do you even go about prepping a pasture? And aren't you supposed to have two, so when one gets eaten down you can move them into the other to let it grow?
Sorry for this long post and rant. I'm trying really hard to talk him out of this. He's got a great setup as it it, I don't see any need to change it! :p
after reading your post I can't help ask why your boyfriend even has a horse..it sounds like he doesn't enjoy it at all. As far as the pasture, I would worry about old rusted nails, screws, scrap metal,etc way more then gophers. Some sort of shelter is a must if the horse & another critter are to be kept out 24/7. BTW fencing is quite a chore that is fun for maybe a second..is he really gonna do it or is it all just talk? as far as seeding...it only works if the field is rested and allowed to grow...heck momma nature has been playing hard ball in so many parts of the world..extremely wet or extremely dry that seeding may not work at all and yep then hay would be necessary especially if the field is mostly weeds.
and BTW horse companions don't have to be the same species, goats, alpacas, llamas, cows will buddy as a herd.
Well initially (I love horses, he hasn't really had any experience with them) we leased the two to do some trail riding for the month. I got way too attached, so now we own the two. Then I moved for my schooling, and took Clem with me, leaving him and Levi there. While I love everything about it - training, working the horses, etc - he likes going on trail rides, and doesn't really care about training as long as he can get Levi to go down the trails. Which he can, as Levi likes the trails. So, we ended up with two horses, one under my care and one under his. As for fencing, yes, he would do it for sure - he fenced the whole field in, at this point he would just be sectioning a piece off to keep the horse in.
And I suppose any species would be fine... It just seemed so odd. Levi is very herdbound, and doesn't have (he never has) any kind of regard for personal space. Horse in the way? Plow into it. Get as close to their face as possible. I just figure a 17 HH horse would be mismatched with a donkey.
Try going to your local County ag extension office. They will have some information for you on pastures and should be able to answer most of yur questions. Though I am in south central Pennsylvania and just took a class from our county agricultural extension office. To reseed and have a decent pasture takes about a year here if not two. We have pretty decent growing here with good topsoil, and generally decent rainfall. Not sure what your dealing with there which is why the county ag office is a good place to start and they are normally completely free!
Gopher holes and other miscellaneous items in a pasture are never good. If he is alone he will get bored, what would you do if you were bored in a pasture all day? Find stuff to get into! So a buddy is a good thing but make sure they get along.
Anyway use your local government resources as they are usually more than willing to help and you pay for them with your taxes, so take advantage of them. Boarding your horse is also a lot more convenient because someone else is taking care of it. When you have to be there or your bf in this case. It isn't going to be fun anymore. You can't go on vacation because now who are you going to get to care for your horse?
Anyway good luck and I hope I at least helped a little.
It isn't that I don't trust him caring for Levi at all! He's competent enough, he loves Levi, and he is learning through me. My main complaint about his horse care is the training beyond basics. He doesn't find it particularly important, while I do. (Just recently he rode Clementine around and said "Wow, she's so much better than Levi!" well yeah...) My question is about the pasture.. I only mentioned the other stuff for a bit of background on why I think this is such a bad idea. And it's true he doesn't know how to recognize any of that - Which I didn't even think about, we'll have to fix that - but if he sees anything remotely off I get a phone call, because I do know how to recognize when something is wrong. Another reason to stay at the boarding facility - the BO can catch something like that before he could, I bet.
I'm not complaining about the care of Levi. While I do wish it was more training heavy, Levi is a happy healthy horse. I'm against the transfer simply because he's completely underestimating all that needs to be done, thinks he can just bring the horse over and it'll all be good. Neither of us have any idea about prepping a pasture - him less than me. I know enough to think that it's not a very good idea, but not enough to convince him that it actually isn't. He's competent in his care of Levi, but that's when all of his other care - feeding, shelter - is already covered. I'm not sure he really knows all the stuff that goes into pasturing your own horse. (Again, neither of us really do).
Just because you asked about pasture prep that is what I talk reply about. Right off, clear all the junk, run a large powerful magnet over and over and over and keep going until you don't have any nails, screws and all pieces of metal up. Cut down all weeds and pick up all glass, and plastic and rocks. Catch, kill, remove some how the gophers the net work of holes make the ground weak and the horse can and will fall through. Have someone till up and smooth, grade the area, put down footing. A 17 hh horse is going to make a mess of a small area really quickly, so small gravel/sand is needed, as well as a properly graded to help drain water. Keep walking with a magnet and picking up stuff, it will appear out of no where even when you think you have it all.
Make a three sided shelter expect to spend at least $500 for a cheap chip board (10 by 10) to $6000 for wood siding and all the fancy bits like kick boards, siding, shingles, and more (at least 10 by 20 for two equines). Even for an acre of land expect a couple of thousand in fencing. Do it right the first time, it's more expensive to fix monthly because you didn't want to spend the money to cement in the posts, or when electric fence insulators pop off or ground out. Make sure the fence is tall enough with enough strands, just because one strand or board can hold the horse in doesn't been it is the best or safest idea. A donkey will get out if you don't, they also can't have as much to eat, how can you going to make sure they get the right amount of hay without a obese donkey from eating the drafts hay? Donkey can't be on tons of pasture.
Look up a list of poisonous plants for your area, till, smooth, put in drains, fence in grazing area, a feed store or country store probably will carry a grass mix for a horse pasture made for your area, expect at least a few hundred in grass seed alone, lime and fertilizer will probably be needed if only weeds are growing now. It needs at least a year before the grazing is ready and strong root system, before grazing it has to watered, and mowed to grow strong, along with other care.
This is just the tip of the iceberg but a start, highly recommend do it right the first time, don't pay twice. Expect at least $5000 to well over $10000 in shelter, fencing, another shed for hay (not a years worth either just a month at most), hay, footing, grass seed, grass management, manure management (what's his plan for 50 to 60 pounds of it a day?), grazing management, fence repairs, labor fees, and all the little things, like stock tanks, heaters, hoses, buckets, feeders, wheel borrow, shovels, pitch forks, feed, and storage for everything (saddle racks etc).
To me, this seems clear and simple. He wants to move the horse to simply save money, correct? So let's talk money, all other problems aside.
Hay varies, but right now it costs $175/ton in my area. Without grass, my Arabian and QH each eat about a half ton a month on average, though it varies throughout the year. A draft will eat more, so lets assume 3/4 ton/month. That's my ballpark estimate, and if they don't eat that much, you will probably go through that much each month anyway because you also lose any hay that gets mold on it/trampled/destroyed by any other means. We usually loose a bale or two per ton, but ours is tarped rather than covered in a shed and isn't *always* completely covered - but that sounds like it might be your situation too. So in hay alone, you're looking at probably $100/mo if your rates are anywhere near ours.
Now add in all the work and supplies you are going to need to pay for up front, and I'm going to be very conservative here on both items and price: A shelter ($300), feeding/watering buckets ($100), Basic electric fencing ($500+, and way more if you want to put in a "real" fence). And what about an area for tack and for tying? Where are you going to ride? I'm not going to even include those, but they'd be a big concern for me.
So basically you're looking at saving yourself $50/mo but spending $900+ to do it. That means you'll take 18 months for your investment to pay off.
Or, even simpler, it will likely cost the same or more to feed his horse AND a companion. Not even counting the additional cost of what it would take to set up his area.
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