During the warmer weather many horse owners may consider turning their equines out to grass for the spring and summer months. Keeping your horse on grass has many advantages but there are also some disadvantages that you should be aware of.
- The advantages of keeping a horse at grass are that it is more natural.
- Horses can be turned out in company.
- Reduces the risk of behavioral problems which are often associated with stabled horses.
- Costs are lower.
- A grass kept horse is less labor intensive.
- The grass kept horse may require greater preparation for riding particularly if wet and muddy.
- Horse living out should be checked daily, to check for any signs of injury or ill health.
- The maintenance and management of the field is an important part of the care of the horse kept at grass to ensure safety, high quality grazing and lack of poisonous plants.
- Secure and safe fencing is an absolute must.
What to consider?
Any grass kept horse should have a sheltered area available. In addition to providing shelter from wind and rain, it is equally important during the summer to provide relief from the heat of the sun and from flies. Shelters can either be man made or natural shelter can be provided by hedges and trees.
Many horses kept at grass thrive well during the summer on grass alone. In many cases it may be necessary to restrict grazing, especially if your horse is susceptible to Laminitis or is a particularly good doer. Be aware that your horse may require additional minerals and vitamins, which can be supplemented by hard feeds or by a mineral lick. This will depend on type, breed, age and work load of your horse. Caution to those prone to Laminitis!
During the spring the grass available is lush and although not a problem for most horses it can cause obesity and some horses and ponies may also suffer from Laminits. Therefore restricted access to grass may need to be considered. This can be achieved by putting a grazing muzzle on the horse without the need to move the horse or moving the horse to a pasture with less grass, or fencing off a portion of the field to provide a starvation area.
During the summer lighter coloured horses and those with pale areas on the face are particularly prone to sunburn, particularly around the nose and mouth, and this can be prevented by applying an equine sun cream at the beginning of each day.
Horses and ponies are also much bothered by flies during the summer and although their manes and tails and those of other horses nearby are put to use in flicking away flies, fly rugs and/or fly repellents applied daily provide effective relief.
Water should always be available and checked regularly. Regular refills may be needed during the summer months if no automatic system is in place.
All fencing should be adequate and safe. Walls and post and rail fencing are effective and safe. Thick strong hedges provide suitable containment and also act to provide shelter from the wind but may become damaged by horses over time rendering them less effective. Electric Fencing can also be used alone or in combination with fencing or hedges to provide more secure fencing.Barbed wire is not recommended as this can cause minor injuries and scratches and occasionally more serious injuries!!!
Horse trample down and destroy much of the grass in the field and over time areas can become so heavily poached with droppings that the grass becomes of little value. Therefore it is wise to manage grazing areas by rotating the use of fields or partitioning a field to allow an area to recover. Daily removal of droppings or periodical harrowing of the field are also effective methods of limiting damage to grass.