Was not sure where to post this as I did not see a horse section. I have 5 acres of flat pine forrest outside of Missoula, MT. It previously had horses on it and is not in very good shape at the moment. I have some plans for the next couple of years to hopefully bring it to life. My brother-in-law needs a place to keep his 3 horses and I was talked into letting them stay on my land. I am wondering if this is a bad idea? Will they make the land worse or better? Thank you!
Hi, I am not an expert, but have been grazing 2-3 horses on pasture and some widely spaced trees (in KY) for 8 years.
my guess is there is nothing for them to eat in pine woods so you will be into a lot of hay ($).
Like the grazing information on this site emphasizes, you have to split your land up and rotate or you will end up with a weed patch.
The first year they had the whole pasture which was mostly fescue and some clover, they ate what they liked down to the roots and destroyed it. Pooped on what they didn't like so that grew great. (lawns and roughs)
We split it into 3 pastures and rotated and it was some better.
We added a sacrifice area (coral/round pen) to keep them in and feed hay when muddy or drought, it some what recovered.
This winter they had a run so they are off the main pastures all winter(horses are athletes and need exercise). we added sheep we will graze after the horses go through to eat weeds and distribute fertility.
We will also split the main pastures up with poly rope and step in posts to graze in smaller areas for less time.
I have high hopes for this grazing season and will keep tweaking till we get it right!
If you feed roll bales the horses will waist a lot of it and trample it into mud which makes a good garden spot.
also make sure there are no places (corners) they can trap each other in because the weaker one will get hurt.
Horses are a major pain in the behind but I love them. Good Luck!
University of Virginia has some good info
Pasture needs rest. 1000 pound herbivores tromping around for years will plug, compact , and chew down any good pasture. Tons of manure or not. As part of a rotational grazing plan I see no difference to the land than cattle grazing. They will however graze down to the ground like sheep when taller grass runs low. They don't use their tongues like cattle . I have seen dirt below layers of manure that was like hard clay. Compacted with no worm activity drawing that manure down. Like chocolate frosting on top of biscotti . Not due to worming medicine either . Just horses standing around their favorite sunning spots - pooping and compressing. They say 2 acres per horse is needed but I say much more and not so long. I formed this opinion in Kentucky too. Rich grass lands , not in sparse pine forests.
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I agree with Wayne -- they will compress the daylights out of your pasture and chew the good grass to oblivion while leaving weeds behind to flourish. An additional problem with grazing them in forest is that they will strip bark off the trees in the winter when there's no grass and they're bored. A pair of horses killed about a dozen maples around the edge of my winter paddock, even with 2x daily hay.
My "nice" pasture for the horses only has them on it in summer, and only when the grass is getting high, and I have to mow it a couple times a summer to knock the weeds back because the horses are picky eaters.
Horses are giant, destructive, expensive pets. Worth it if you love them, I guess, or maybe if you're using them for work and have excellent year-round pasture.