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Do grazing rules not apply any more?

(11 Posts)
BoutrosBoutros Tue 28-Jul-15 19:40:14

Full disclosure: I rode all through my childhood and teens but haven't ridden regularly for a good 15 years or so and I'm quite out of touch!

Our neighbours have a small yard attached to their house which they rent out, and a field at the back of that which runs across the back of their property and ours. I'd guess there's under 2 acres of grazing, to my eye more like 1.5. The yard has stabling for 5 horses and the last tenants had 5 horses turned out most of the time. The field was grazed bare and basically just dry earth (or mud in winter). I don't doubt the horses were well fed; they had plenty of hay (even in spring!) and I guess hard feed too - they looked healthy but the land was ruined and heavy rain just ran straight off the top and into our garden which I'm convinced caused flooding last summer.

The last tenants moved out and some patchy grass has reappeared - now a new set of tenants has moved in with 4 horses this time! I'm shocked, I was always taught you needed 1.5 acres for the first horse and 1 acre per horse after that. Is that not relevant any more? Or is that only a rule for grass-fed natives maybe? I just can't understand why you'd cram 4 horses into such a small field!

britnay Tue 28-Jul-15 20:32:36

Land is expensive! horsey people are also notorious for not wanting to spend money!

At my yard I have 7 horses on 10 acres. Each group of horses has 3 paddocks and are rotated through them during the year to ensure fresh grazing. Paddocks are also poo-picked daily to keep them clean. They are also harrowed/aerated/spot sprayed and reseeded as required. Grazing needs to be looked after to get the most out of it for horses.

Scramblebrain Tue 28-Jul-15 20:48:35

I agree with your calculations OP. we have ten acres and four horses. Six paddocks and three always resting. This means we have grass all year round and the horses are turned out every day.

BoutrosBoutros Tue 28-Jul-15 20:48:56

britnay that sounds ideal! Think lack of poo picking and harrowing has also contributed to the problem, hopefully the new people will treat it better, it's poor quality grazing now - lots of weeds and bare patches! Just worry if we get a heavy rainfall when the earth is hard again we'll just get lots of muddy run-off flooding the house!!

Gabilan Tue 28-Jul-15 20:57:52

It sounds like they have turnout rather than grazing as such. On the yard where I keep my horse we have 1+acre per horse plus some set aside for hay. Winter turnout is much more limited and the horses are in corals with haynets. It's not ideal but they get out, mooch around with their mates and have a change of scene. Mine settles to it well but at his previous yard he was rarely turned out at all (hence the move) and so I think he's just glad to be out.

As far as I know the rule is still a minimum of 1 acre per horse and rotating the grazing. Land still gets horse sick!

Pixel Tue 28-Jul-15 21:23:45

I agree some people are keeping too many horses on too small a space but sometimes the quality of the grazing is down to laziness. I've seen quite small paddocks that stay looking reasonable because the weeds are kept under control, droppings picked up daily etc but there is a field near my house that the horse owners do nothing to and I wouldn't put my horse in there if you paid me. It's quite large enough for the 2 horses and 1 shetland that are in there if it was properly managed, but in 10 years that I've lived here I've never seen them fence off a bit to give it a rest or anything. There is nothing there but docks and ragwort.

OP I wouldn't be at all surprised if the bare field has caused your flooding. The land we rent is on a hill and at times we do deliberately let parts of it get quite bare so as to stop our ponies getting too fat, but we are always sure to let the bit above the shelters stay long because it really does help stop the water running down off the hill and making the area muddy.

BoutrosBoutros Tue 28-Jul-15 22:16:51

Thanks everyone, makes me feel better about my grumpiness that I'm not the only one who feels it's a bit much! It is definitely turnout space over grazing I suppose but it's not been managed or allowed to rest so it's in a poor state. Fingers crossed the new tenants take better care of it (although I can see they've put up electric fencing along the existing post and rail and portioned off a part at the top where there are sycamores but not divided up the land). At least toddler DS will be pleased to have new horses at the end of the garden to say hello to!!

Gabilan Tue 28-Jul-15 22:23:55

Well if they know about sycamores, they might be more careful.

Even if the land is just for turnout rather than grazing, it still needs managing. Our corrals are regularly resurfaced, poo picked and tended so that they drain.

swisscheesetony Thu 30-Jul-15 13:39:41

Actually, modern thinking is along the lines of Track Systems and not letting them gorge on unlimited pasture. Dirt & hay is better for them nutrition-wise.

Gabilan Thu 30-Jul-15 20:33:07

Paddock paradise and similar systems are about maximising the space you've got, encouraging the horses to move around, giving them more varied terrain and yes, not allowing them to gorge on rich pasture.

Horses evolved on something more like upland grazing/ moorland. The trouble is we now graze them on much richer lowland pastures often grown specifically to fatten farm animals. Added to which leisure horses don't work very hard so it's easy for them to become overweight and/ or laminitic. There is however a big difference between setting up a track system, and just letting your land become overgrazed, ruining it, and allowing rain to run off it and flood other property.

AuntieDee Mon 10-Aug-15 15:20:46

It's dreadful isn't it!?

I have 16 acres and 4 horses and it does just right. I have 11 acres for hay in the summer which becomes turnout in the winter and 5 acres for summer turnout split between 4 paddocks.

My land has grass all year round and I get 'free' hay for when they are stabled as the farmer makes it for me in exchange for half the cut.

I'm luck though - most don't have this luxury.

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