No time like the present for horse riding in pasture management

An article on pasture management in mid-January – sounds a bit untimely to you, you probably think. Well I would agree with you, except mid-winter is a great time to dream about warmer spring days and imagine what you want your pastures to look like throughout the grazing season.

Winter is a time for preparatory thinking about what management changes you could make on your farm in May or June.

Let’s start with the most radical action you can take: the total renovation of pastures. And, to make things fun, let’s use a horse pasture.

I will never forget an instructor I had in undergrad who spoke about the damage a horse can do to beautiful terrain (he was an agricultural engineer specializing in high traffic areas for livestock, so he spoke with tenderness). He said a horse exerts more pounds per square inch under each of its hooves than a Cat bulldozer caterpillar.

It seems a bit extreme and I can’t find the exact reference, but the idea made for a punchy visual. As owners and managers of horses, we need to be realistic with ourselves and realize that horses are tough on the court.

A story about Miss Whinnie

So let’s take our few acre pasture that has housed Miss Whinnie for the past five years. She’s always outside, whatever the weather and the season, and the pasture seems a little barren. Vegetation is present, but it is curly quay, plain and chickweed, none of which is eaten by horses.

There is little grass left and a large muddy area around the door and waterer, making her retrieval something only the bravest of rubber boots should encounter. Looks like the pasture needs some help.

Renovating horse pastures is a long process due to the imagery described above – horses are tough on the ground. Even after the burning and reseeding process, horses should be excluded from pasture for at least six months to allow the grass to establish a deep root system.

This is where the partial renovation comes in.

Do not renovate ALL of the pasture at once, especially if this is your only place to put your horse. Divide the pasture into two or three pieces and do it piecemeal.

Another management practice that I like to encourage in keeping horses is a big sacrifice. This is a dirt or stone field that has no vegetation, essentially a designated mud court. Keeping your horse (s) in the sacrifice lot during the winter and during rainy episodes in summer preserves your pastures and prevents them from becoming deeply pockmarked with hoof prints.

If this sounds like your property (it’s okay if it does!) Extension can help. In collaboration with the ODA, NRCS, and the Ohio Forage and Grasslands Council (OFGC), OSU Extension has done some renovations and relaunched the updated version of the Forages for Horses course.

The chapters of the course are horse nutrition, plant physiology, species selection, pasture establishment and management, mud and manure management, internal parasites, hay assessment and economy.

Course registration gives you a manual, access to exclusive online resources, a three-part webinar series, and a pasture walk in the summer of 2022. The course costs $ 75 to register and discounts are granted to members of the OFGC. Our first webinar is January 20, so there is still time to register. Visit go.osu.edu/foragesforhorsesregistration to register today.

Events to come

There will be an Agricultural Outlook meeting Thursday from 8 am to noon at the Buckeye Agriculture Museum, 877 W. Old Lincolnway, Wooster. Topics include weather and climate change, dairy outlook, farm law updates and land prices and input costs. A quick call to 330-264-8722 for RSVP is requested and $ 10 will be collected at the door. We hope to see you there!

The Ag Pro Expo will be held at the Harvest Ridge Event Center from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on January 27. If you need pesticide and fertilizer credits for an expiring license, categories 1, 2, 6, 15 and basic will be covered in the session at the Baker building.

Please call 330-264-8722 to pre-register to ensure the documents are prepared. There is a cost of $ 35 for pesticides and $ 10 for fertilizers which will both be collected at the door.

Other sessions of interest are Tractor Safety, Farm Gas, and Dicamba Training, which count towards the Farm Bureau’s Workers Comp group assessment. For those in need of CCA credits, sessions on manure nutrients, fungicides and mycotoxins are eligible.

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