Ensuring your paddock is not only safe but also going to provide a reasonable source of nutrition for your horse or pony takes some preparation.
Here are some key steps to get your fields ready for the season ahead
1- Is it secure? Is it safe?
Checking that the fencing is both safe and secure is essential to ensure that injury and risk of straying is minimised.
This also applies to gates and gateways; checking that hinges and latches/fastenings are in good working order and that any potentially dangerous rutted areas are rolled, to prevent injury to suspensory ligaments and so on.
2- Resting, harrowing and worms
Ideally, the paddock should have been rested or rotated to give the grass chance to grow and, most importantly, to give the droppings that haven’t been cleared time to dissolve into the ground. This will help to reduce the spread of worm eggs and larvae.
If you don’t regularly poo pick, harrowing will help to spread uncleared droppings and distribute nutrients more evenly.
3- Seeding and fertilising
Grass seed can be scattered on areas where there is little or poor grass to encourage growth. If the whole pasture requires help, then a complete re-seed may be needed. This is best done in spring or autumn.
The paddock may also require fertilisation to both boost growth and improve the nutrition of the grass.
Specific equine fertilisers are best as they release nutrients more steadily and are lower in nitrogen, so the sward (the upper layer of soil covered in grass) doesn’t grow too quickly or become too lush.
If it does, it may not be suitable for many horse’s health, especially laminitics.
4- Weeds and poisonous plants
Any harmful plants, such as ragwort, should be removed regularly and disposed of so they cannot re-seed. This can be done either by hand or professionally with a herbicide.
Be sure to get professional help when using herbicides or fertilisers – not only to be satisfied that the application is safe, but also to ascertain how long you need to wait before horses can be turned out on the pasture without any detrimental effects.
5- Access to water and shelter
Check troughs, pipes/horses or buckets are clean and in working order, so you can provide your horse with enough fresh water daily.
Intense summer sun can be uncomfortable for horses and ponies, so give some thought as to how your horse can access shelter or shade.
For more information about paddock prep and spring nutrition, see the full article in issue 451, available here.
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