Pasture Management for the Horse



This is a practical guide to pasture management. Not out of the books! This is my property which had lost every ounce of top soil down the creeks and was wall to wall Salvation Jane.

Why is it that everything you feed your horse comes out the other end?      smileyonhorse

Photo This was our property. Nothing but Clay and Salvation Jane. Photo Click on photo’s to enlarge

Have you ever noticed that what you put in one end comes out the other end and actually grows? Yes, the horse has only one stomach and if you put sun flower seed in one end you get flowers growing  from the manure. This brings me to one of the major problems in trying to be a responsible horse owner.

There wouldn’t be a Public Servant, National Parks Officer, Greeny or Local Govt person who doesn’t have a most negative opinion of the horse and I can tell you that this comes from the fact that where ever horses go, weeds follow.

 So when the National Parks Ranger finds Salvation Jane flowering beautifully in the National Park, of course they want to ban horses. Hell, they know who the culprit is because the car park is full of it. Right where the horses were tied up. Just like at the Dressage Club. This is the number one reason why horses have a bad reputation throughout every walk of life other than the Horse Community.

Isn’t it funny though, how the Govt Lands like SA Water and various Councils, are covered in thistles etc and that each year, the seeds blow on to all of the nearby horse properties. Specifically the ‘Father Xmas’ wind born seeds. Then you have the feral suburban pigeon populations who eat the weed seeds and then visit the horse properties for the oats and leave the weed seeds via their manure.

Who’s fault is this then. The fault lies directly at the feet of Federal, State and Local Government. It is their fault that horses drop weeds. Why?

Because of their lack of uniform controls on weed eradication across the farms of Australia and in particular, the hay and grain growers. One Council will have a weed a ‘Declared Weed’ and the next door Council won’t. What ever weed your friendly hay supplier grows so do you grow the next year. You feed hay or chaff in your paddocks and you are sowing weeds.

More and more horse property owners try like hell to run a good weed eradication plan. They have no hope so long as there are no controls. Read my lips. No weeds in fodder equals horses not spreading weeds.

Here is a photo of a paddock on my property. The  crop of weeds is due to one Round Bale of Hay that I purchased from the local Fodder Store last year and because work experience girls were doing the feeding at that time, I didn’t realize that it was infested with Salvation Jane, Marsh Mellow, Dandelion and other weeds. My fault. These paddocks had been sprayed 15 times in 8 years and had no weed. One mistake and see what you get. The suspect Hay was trucked from Burra in South Australia’s far North and came through several Council Regions, nicely seeding the roadside for 400k. smileythrowingputer


I cannot think of a more destructive animal on pastures and the land in general than the horse. It is therefore imperative, that in order to strike a balance between horse ownership and good environmental practice, we must firstly learn the pasture establishment skills and then know how to maintain them in an acceptable manner.

    • One could get technical with this subject but I will stick to the most important points to remember as there are plenty of papers written on the subject by Govt Dept’s and the like. What they miss, I will attempt to include, albeit that it is difficult to talk about differing climates and areas of a large Country like Australia.


    • Every time a horse takes a divot out of the turf, pasture does not replace it, a weed does. The weed is the eternal opponent of the horse owner as it is the pioneer that is the first to explore barren territory. Over time, with every divot, the weeds get established and the pasture diminishes, until such time that you have nothing but weeds. This is common with Horse Properties.


    • If you feed purchased hay or chaff and some grains, you will be directly seeding your property with weeds due to the weed seeds within that produce. Therefore, do not ever spread hay out in your paddocks, feed in a central location, possible out of hay nets on a tree or gate and then you will have diminished weed spread somewhat.


    • The other factor that progressively denudes your pasture is the fact that the horse will not graze around it’s own manure heaps and yet pasture thrives there. Given the fact that the horse manures about 20 times per 24 hour period, it doesn’t take long to severely diminish the available grazing area within your paddock.


    • Then there is the fussy side of the horse. There are things that they will not eat and things that they should not eat. Like weeds. Some say that a horse will not eat weeds unless it is starving of good pasture or other feed. I see fat, over weight, well pampered horses eat them all the time. It depends how closely you observe your horse in the paddock and also how closely you check out the paddock itself.





    • Over stocking is one of the main causes of pasture degradation in this Country.


    • The size of paddocks is another one. The smaller the paddock the greater the damage.


    • The failure to spread manure by dragging some Building Mesh on a regular basis


    • Weed eradication programs not being carried out, not being carried out regularly enough or the spraying for weeds at the wrong time of the year.


    • A lack of thought with the feeding regimes. location


    • The use of incorrect pasture grasses.


    • No top soil leaving only clay.


    • Salinity


    • Not having a few sheep and a Cow (stocking rates depending upon size)


  • Relying on the paddocks to feed your horses.




Certain weeds are dangerous to horses. Particularly Salvation Jane (Patterson’s Curse) which kills horses over time by attacking the liver, Onion weed which causes Colic and the Hills Daisy (Kangarilla Flatbush or Dandelion) which horses become addicted to and which causes Stringhalt in horses. This can kill them.




The smaller the paddocks the more turf and weed damage you will get. The only way to keep pasture in small  2 acres paddocks is to build a shelter with attached day yard within the paddock. The horse is only let out when the paddock is dry and then only after exercise to stop galloping around and ploughing the field. Small paddocks were not designed to support your horse with fodder. You are best off hand feeding, letting your horse our for a green pick now and again and at least keeping the place looking as if you know what you are doing. The smallest permanent type paddock for one horse should be no less than 5 acres.Photo Damage done in 48 hours by 5 horses in Winter by me as a test and for them to tread in seed.




Horses tend to congregate in corners or gateways. I install heavy road base in my gateways. This stops the mess. They are going to destroy that area of your paddock anyway. The favored corner of the paddock gets electric fenced across on the angle to stop horses meeting there. I will then feed horses via hay nets which I tie to the gate. This keeps weed seeds congregated in one spot and stops the bog hole during winter. I will cut corners off in paddocks and tree plant them also, thus taking the horses further away from wanting to be close up and personnel a the meeting place. Just run your electric fences across the corners.




When these people buy their dream property, for the daughter, (who will leave it for Boys pretty soon lol) they often think they have to plough the paddocks to put seed in but if you own a horse property, you will regret that deeply because as soon as you do, the ground becomes and stays soft and not consolidated, basically forever. This allows horses to sink and dig into it far easier. SOD SEED or throw seed like you are feeding the chooks and covers with composted manure or just drag a lump of builders mesh about.





Sheep with Horses and Cattle with Horses provides a very good balance for they all eat differently and Horses won’t eat near their own manure. So the Weed becomes the Pioneer and gradually, your Paddock is useless. Fencing of course is a problem as Sheep Fencing doesn’t suit Horses (Sheep Mesh) and nor does Cattle (Barbed Wire) So you may need two fences. Interior fencing and the Boundary Fence for the Ferals 🙂




Once again, Councils do not control these and if ever Bird Flu comes to Australia it will be the pigeons that spread it. Get poison from Councils which drugs them. Pick up any Native Bird and put in a dark place. They come good and release them. The Pigeons are then killed by the feral Cats and Foxes. There are as many Foxes in the Metro bounds as the Country. Even in the Suburbs. A very effective way to deal with feral pigeons is to feed them some seed laced with a chemical called Fenthion (trade name is Lebaycid). Get it from Elders.




Only use Sand in them, NOT shell grit. Then, when you compost your manure/sand/straw/saw dust/urine and so on, you can top dress your paddocks with it after composting and cover thrown seed, plus putting a sandier texture to your denuded paddocks.




Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo
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If you don’t have Creeks protected from horses, this is what you get and this what we inherited. Not only that but 10 tonne of manure thrown into one of them. This is what horses do to creeks.

Photo beforePhoto Photo Photo 5000 tonne of fill Photo 750 tonne of rock
  Photo Photo Photo Water slow down
Photo $190 per hour  beforePhoto  Photo after, fenced and Tree planted




If you have stabled horses that are going to be let out into day paddocks, there is always a problem with the excitement of it all. During this time, the damage is done to your paddocks. Remember, for every divot that the horse chops out of your pasture, it will be replaced by a weed, not grass. I have developed a sand ‘hoon around’ paddock where they can run amok as much as they like. This is a good alternative for the winter months when we will simply not allow horses in small paddocks at all. Remember however, do not feed on the sand for ‘sand colic’ prevention. When horses have let their steam off, they can then be transferred to the pasture. Never let them out of the gate of their yards until ridden or hooned first.




As a general rule, I have found that the maximum allowable slope in a horse paddock should be no more than about 6%. Any steeper and it is not healthy for horses legs, causing possible ‘ringbone’. Horses were not bred for ‘Mountain Goat’ country. I even think that grazing on steep land causes arthritis later. You cannot successfully run horses on gradients steeper than that and keep pasture or topsoil.!!!

Any more slope than that and you will have major top soil shift downhill and water run-off problems, causing erosion. The more slope, the more weed seed runoff you will get. This will cause infestation in other areas. This is the result of 5% fall on our property prior. Only Clay left and we had to buy top soil to re-start.




Photo   Photo Only Clay left. Every ounce of top soil gone Photo
Water Flow restriction at boundary.
Creek rehabilitation and fencing
to stop horses crossing.
Photo After spreading top soil Photo new seed

Photo Here is a property with around 7% fall and it is basically not possible to have horses on this slope. No topsoil left and only weeds evident.



If you go to the Govt Advisor or the Seed Merchant, you will be advised to plant a Horse Mix or in the case here in South Australia, “Adelaide Hills Pasture Mix’

Problem here is that most Beurocrats’ don’t live in the real world and get these things out of books. These mixes do not work. Why?

For starters, there are always a lot of broad leafed type pasture grasses in these mixes., like clover. Horses hate clover. The other thing I learn long ago is that there is absolutely no point in having  broad leaf type pasture plants because the very thing you will be spraying to kill is broad leaf weeds. Your broad leaf pasture is immediately killed in the first year. So that was a complete waste of money.

One pasture that will handle the wear and tear is kikuyu. This will at least repair itself, stays green most of the time, does provide some feed and especially the picking that horses need to do. It does however diminish the calcium levels in horses and you should substitute Calcium in your hard feeds.

I have always found that the tough, thin leaved grasses are the best. Phalaris, Coxfoot, Fescue, etc. Those that clump up and are hard to move. They also tend to re-shoot during summer. Most of all, they do not die when spraying for weeds. That is what you are looking at here below on our property.




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Photo Photo Sand run around    

012_small1 Ponding system






A minimum of two winters is required to establish the perfect pasture that allows the grasses to get their root systems down and strong enough so that horses don’t trash the paddock in quick time. Seed at the beginning of the first winter and let the horses out in the Spring of the second year, after the second Winter.




Photo     Photo
Photo Photo Photo Photo

Photo Fodder Trees and the eating pattern.

Photo Sand Paddock for the run around to save destruction of the grass paddocks. They let steam off here first or are ridden first.




We have certain horses that have small paddocks. Some of those love to run excessively and seem to enjoy destroying their environment. I hobble train these and stop their run. It works a treat.




It is recommended that you run a few sheep and cattle to balance pasture management. Sheep will eat the long grass around the horse manure. Cattle will eat the long grass which horses will not. Sheep eat weeds and so on. This does restrict your fencing options however as Cattle need barbed wire and we must not have this in horse paddocks.




Tree plant your raceways between paddocks. This stops wind, can stop horse interaction which causes running, soaks up excess ground water and so on. Lucerne Trees are free on the side of the Road and feed your horses at the same time.




At least once a year at the correct time but if you are serious, twice per year. First when the weed are juveniles and then later in the season for the ones you missed. Salvation Jane will even grow and flower in the Summer and spot spraying is required.




TIPS Here in Australia, ‘Roundup’ one of the poisons sold by Monsanto, runs between $20 and $28 per litre for 350 strength in the hardware shop. Home Brand Roundup copy is $8 per litre. Befriend your local farmer. Try $4 per litre. 450 strength. hehehehe Roundup kills everything and so you would only use that to kill off a whole paddock prior to re-seeding or spot spraying perhaps. The best broadleaf selective herbicide that I have used is Citrine or Agtrine.




Our Bore has dropped 7 metres and gone saline in the last 5 years. Thanks to the Local Council sinking bores and irrigating at liberty, newly installed Ovals nearby and downstream plus the Government not control a rogue irrigator nearby.  As a result, we have made the investment to be self sufficient. Something the State Government have no idea about.

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Have fun!!


I am listening….are You??

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