Im looking at buying a small ranch that is around 5-10 acres. My question is..is it enough land to hold 18 horses. I understand that I will have to supplement feed with hay because the pasture will be dirt in no time but is it healthy for that amount of horses to be confined in that amount of space. Thanks for your input.
First of all, 5-10 acres is a pretty big span. If it's 5 acres, I would say no, but a 10-acre field should be okay, depending on your location, and if the horses are in full turnout or stalled some of the time so the pasture can be rotated. Also keep in mind that some states have laws regarding the amount of land required per horse. In a lot of states, 4 acres are required for your first horse, and 1 acre for each additional horse, so in those states, with your 18 horses, you would legally need 21 acres of pasture.
I would say no, depending on what part of the country you're in. You say the property is 5 - 10 acres, but you don't say how much land is inside fence, which is really the key consideration.
You also don't say how you plan on keeping the horses. 18 horses with 5 - 6 acres inside fence is possible if: 1.) horses are stalled at least 50% of the time 2.) you have an agressive program of picking up manure in the paddocks and harrowing them 3.) you use a daily dewormer product 4.) you have excellent, tight fences 5.) you supplement heavily with hay and grain. and 6.) you have a regulary scheduled manure pick up or disposal off the property. It's a very expensive and high maintenence way to keep horses.
You might also want to check local zoning ordinances as well for what the maximum is that they will allow. In my area, it's a zoning requirement that you have three acres for the first horse, and an additional acre for each subsequent. That's total land, not pasture inside fence, but under that guideline, you'd need 21 acres minimum for your 18 horse.
It depends on the terrain. If it's flat without a lot of trees, then you can cut up the land to make rotational pastures. I would want at least 8 acres of pasture for 18 horses. If you seed and fertilize the pastures and rotate the horses, then you should be able to keep grass in most of them. If you stall your horses for half-days then you could keep it even nicer, though I am not a fan of stalling personally.
If the terrain is hilly and/or full of trees, then you will have more of a challenge keeping it nice.
When you first move in, fence it the way you want, but don't do much to the land. The horses will show you where you need to improve drainage, add rock, seed, etc. Use electric to make rotational pastures, so you can move around fence lines as needed.
If there are no zoning rules/laws where your located the general amount of acreage per horse is no less than 2 acres. However, with the already suggested rotational program of pasture management it could possibly work out okay. Although, the pasture would eventually become more a drylot than pasture. Which wouldn't be a totally bad thing as long your horses do get free choice hay 24/7. As an example, our pasture/field is about 3 1/2 acres and we have had up to 4 horses on it 24/7. We had to feed hay free choice and we fed a grain supplement twice daily even at times with occasional light excercise to keep them in good flesh condition.
Most of the other issues have been covered already those being, regular worming schedule, current vaccinations, manure management, etc.
One of the barns I boarded at in San Diego (San Marcos to be exact) back in the 90s had over 80 horses on 8-9 acres. Nearly all were stalled. We had a big jumping arena, and smaller schooling arena with jumps, and big turnout round pen, and two full size regulation Dressage arenas. You could pay for 1-2 hours of turnout in the round pen (was really a big oval), but most horses were just stalled 24/7. They were fed hay three times a day, feed twice a day if needed) and their stalls were cleaned twice daily. Lesson horses were in one of two "pastures" which were just big dry lots, probably about 1/4 to 1/3 acre each with 6-8 horses in each one. There was a BIG boarders barn that held something like 50 horses. There was a long "mare-motel" outside stalls that were 12x24'. There were uncovered 12x16 "stalls" and two rows of 12x24' outdoor pens that had three sided shelters at the back (about 12x8' shelters). There was also a small "lesson barn" that had 4 stalls and a big office/tack room.
The place was kept very clean by a fleet of hispanic workers that lived on the property. Hay came in regularly by the semi-load as did shavings. Manure was picked up in big dumpsters twice a week.
So, lots of horses on small property can be done, but it's always more expensive and a lot more work.
We have pasture May- October. We keep the horses off for a day or so after a rain to keep them from tearing up the roots. They are on dry lot at night so that the pasture has time to rest. We have hay in the dry lot at all times so the horses are not 'starved' when they go onto pasture.
Good pasture management goes a long way.
My .02 cents: I have about 2 acres +/- and up until last week, had one horse who had been here a month. I now have 2 horses. And we are almost outta grass. I feed hay twice daily and grain and still - our grass is being depleted quickly.
Horses are foragers. Take away eating and you're gonna have some surly animals pretty quickly. 18 horses on even 10 acres seems a bit much IMO. In a county we were looking at, they had a minimum of 5 acres for the first horse and 3 horses per every 5. I think that is a fair assessment.
it can work if you are good at managing pastures, can rotate pastures, and can keep horses in small enough groups. 15 horses in one field will all mill about the same area doing more damage than 5 horses each in 3 fields. also having one field to rotate with is a huge help so that you chance turn outs every other month - allowing each paddock a 2 month rest period. it - like others said - also depends on how you manage the pasutres, how much of the acreage you have actually as pasture, as well as the terrain. that will be a lot harder if it is hilly, wodded, or rocky compared to cleared, level, grassy. it also depends on ground water. if there is a high ground water level then the fields will be muddy much faster with fewer horses. all things to take into consideration.
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