Michael R. Hackett
County Livestock & Small Farms Extension Agent
Washington State University
Horses can be kept in small areas if proper management is taken to prevent green pastures from becoming mud holes. On large pastures horses can be left to graze through the entire growing season, but in small pastures horses should only graze for a short time. Graze horses 1 to 3 days, then place them in a sacrifice area to allow the grass to regrow.
Key Management Practices
Allow grasses to become well established at the beginning of the growing season. This establishes hardy roots on the plants for the entire season. All horses on the pasture until grasses are grazed down to 3 to 6 inches, then rest the pasture, allowing grasses to regrow. A small exercise area can be used as a sacrifice area when pastures are regrowing. Supplement hay when grasses in pastures are regrowing. Keep horses off pastures when too wet, as hoof compaction will decrease grass growth.
Following "best" management practices will allow pastures to produce more tonnage of quality feed than allowing horses to continually graze.
Consult your County Extension Agent, U.S.D.A. Soil Conservation Service, or Conservation District for information on the best adapted grasses for your area.
Cooperating agencies: Washington State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Snohomish, Island, and Skagit County Cooperative Extension programs and employment are available to all without discrimination.