The Best Pasture Management Technique
by Alayne Blickle, Horses for Clean Water
Probably the most important aspect of managing pastures is the time when you take your horses off your pasture. You can greatly improve the health and productivity of your pasture plants by creating and using a paddock, or “sacrifice area” to confine your horses for when pasture plants need to grow. A sacrifice area becomes your horses outdoor living space when they aren’t on the pasture. Here are a few tips on creating a sacrifice area:
Begin by locating an appropriate site for your sacrifice area which is:
- On higher ground
- Away from creeks, wetlands or other water bodies and surface water flows
- Surrounded by a grassy or vegetated buffer for biofiltration of any runoff
- Convenient to your barn to make it easy to maintain and to care for your horse
Size? A sacrifice area can vary from the size of a box stall, 12'x 16', to that of a long, narrow enclosure where a horse can trot or even gallop to get some exercise.
Using some type of footing in your sacrifice area will prevent erosion and reduce mud. Some horse healthy footing options include:
- Gravel (crushed rock, no larger than 5/8")
- Coarse, washed sand
- non-toxic wood chips (often called hogfuel)
Installing rain gutters and downspouts on barns, sheds and outbuildings will divert clean rainwater away from your sacrifice areas and substantially reduce mud and runoff.
Choose the very safest fencing you can for your sacrifice area. Whatever type of fencing you choose, you may want to reinforce it with some type of electric tape or hot wire - a good “psychological barrier.” Horses are hard on fences and will test most types but they tend to have respect for electric fencing.
Be sure that corners are safe and there are no protruding objects where a horse could get hurt, like bolt ends, nails, boards, or the tops of metal t-posts.
Size all sacrifice area gates for the types of deliveries you expect (such as gravel, hogfuel and hay).
Stay tuned to Horses for Clean Water to learn more about how to integrate a sacrifice area into your pasture management regime!