Living off of pasture alone? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 13 Old 03-28-2014, 01:22 PM Thread Starter
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Living off of pasture alone?

Hi there, My horse recently got moved to a new area. She was fed regularly, grass hay morning & night & put on pasture a few hours a day. Stalled otherwise, while she was being boarded. Now she is just in a pasture 1/4 acre. & not getting hay. The Grass is long & my sister believes she doesn't need food otherwise. what is your guys take on that? my sister thinks as tho shes getting enough food & "grass is grass" dried or not. But i would like some input on that is possible.
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post #2 of 13 Old 03-28-2014, 01:31 PM
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Hmm. While my horses usually just live off of grass pasture in the spring/summer, they have a LOT more than 1/4 an acre. They have about 3-4 acres each. And, occassionally, they do get some hay just to mix things up. While the grass is high now, I doubt it will be for long. Perhaps a round bale? So he can choose to eat grass when he wants, and he will have time to alternate between the pasture and hay to let the grass grow back.

But, if the grass really does stay in stock - then I don't see any harm in letting him live on pasture alone. Horses have done it for hundreds of years.
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post #3 of 13 Old 03-29-2014, 03:11 AM
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A lot of people whose opinions I've read, in addition to Pete Ramey and some vets he wrote a barefoot trimming textbook about, have found that that depending on where you live and the type of grass, it could contain too much sugar and therefore cause things like laminitis and insulin resistance.

My barefoot trimmer farrier took one look at my friend's horse who is kept on pasture grass every season but winter and said, "You need to stop letting your horse graze on grass and feed her hay year round. The rings on her hoofs tell me she's been in a lot of pain over the past several years." or something to that effect. Even though the horse was in a dirt lot being fed hay at the time, the farrier could tell she was a grass eater most of the time, just by the state of her hooves.
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post #4 of 13 Old 03-29-2014, 01:59 PM
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Basically what she's eating is just hay on the stem. 1/4 acre is going to last her just a few weeks best case. Once the grass starts growing in, she will have it destroyed and down to a dirt lot quick. If you want some limited grazing year round control how much time she is out there now.
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post #5 of 13 Old 04-03-2014, 11:24 PM
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1/4 acre will last a very short time. Grass hay is just dried grass, so in many respects you're comparing apples with apples. The difference is in the water content & some vitamins which are lost. Unfortunately sugar is not among the lost nutrients, so as far as IR risk, depends on the grass, how it's grown, when it's cut, as to how much sugar. At least you can soak hay, to leach it out if necessary. As for nutrients, it depends again. Irrigated, fertilised, cattle fattening types can be terrible, but native grass grown on good but unfertilised soil can be great & more nutritious. It is likely that whatever it is, it will be deficient in a number of important nutrients though, such as zinc, copper, iodine, to name a few, so I think it's important to provide an *appropriate* nutritional supp too.
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post #6 of 13 Old 04-22-2014, 12:18 AM
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It will depend on the type of grass and the season, but our horses have always stayed out on pure pasture during the spring/summer/early fall and have done fine. A 1/4 acre is very small, though so you may want to consider feeding hay as well. Certain horses may also have differnt dietary requirments. My girl, Aero, is hard to keep weight on so she needs to be monitored and fed as needed, while the rest can do without.
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post #7 of 13 Old 04-22-2014, 05:36 AM
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I agree that with 1/4 acres, you'll need to feed hay. Our horses always have free choice hay available, even when there is a lot of grass, and we've found that it keeps them from over grazing areas of the pasture, too.
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post #8 of 13 Old 04-22-2014, 10:28 AM
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1/4 acre is going to be gone in no time...

For now...hoping your horse was introduced slowly to that non-stop availability of good rich grass to eat...
Once she eats the pasture down...if you want to save any of that grass get her off of it and feed her hay.
Best would be to feed her hay and let her have a set amount of time out to graze daily. That would save the grass for a longer period of time...and be prepared to water, fertilize and seed it if you want to keep a grass area for her.
Ususally once a pasture reaches grass height down to 4" it is time to get them off it so it can grow back... on at 8" or more and off at 4" seems to work well for me... my grass grows back in and appears not damaged.

Please remember that just because it is green with foliage doesn't mean the horse will eat everything out there... watch closely. Horses are picky eaters, period!
Horses graze between 16-20 hours a day so that what you think is a large area is not truthfully.
You also need to either break apart manure piles, spread them or remove them...horses don't normally eat where they defecate and flies just love poop piles hanging around.

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post #9 of 13 Old 04-22-2014, 11:06 AM
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Yes, you can support a healthy horse on nothing but grass and a good mineral supplement. I do it for my crew every summer. In fact the fresh grass will have more nutrition than the hay because the drying process loses many of the fat soluble nutrients like Vitamin A, D, and E. BUT you must have enough land per horse to do it and you must make introductions slowly.

It depends on where you live how much land a horse needs to support them. Around here it tends to be an acre per horse to get them through a decent summer (no drought). Some areas require more. I have my doubts that a 1/4 of an acre would support a single horse long and if it was really that lush of land then you would have more concerns of founder from the too-lush grass.
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post #10 of 13 Old 04-22-2014, 12:20 PM
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Agree - 1/4 acre is nothing to a healthy horse that's on it 24/7. Even if you put hay out she'll eat grass in preference and you'll soon have a dirt patch with nothing on it. With such a small amount of land you have two choices - let it become a dirt patch and feed hay all the time or stall her for a good part of the day or night feeding hay and turn her out on her grassy patch for short periods so she at least gets to eat something green
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