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pasture management for ponies

 
Carole York
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I live in Ireland. I keep 4 shetland ponies on a track running around 3 acres of pasture, allowing the grass in the middle to grow long. What is the life cycle of grass? If I leave the middles ungrazed all summer and let the ponies into the middle in the winter will this be OK? Or does the long grass die back at the end of summer?
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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It depends on the specific species of grasses you have. Some stay viable, some lose all their nutrition.

Do they stay mostly green(ish) or do they completely turn brown?
 
Carole York
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I don't know, I've only been here since January but I think it stays pretty green....this is Ireland.....everything is green and wet... These ponies are best on poor quality grass anyway, or they ar at risk of laminitis.
 
R Scott
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I am just starting down the winter grazing system, and have no experience with your weather or forage.

I do know that I have to be really careful how long I leave my cattle on any piece of ground when wet or I get serious degradation from hoof traffic. I also know you have to rotate horses different than cattle, but I don't know what the difference is (we only have one horse and he has run of the place).

 
Carole York
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Hey thanks. Those videos are really interesting and even though cattle are different I can see I'm on the right track. Thd difference with horses is really just that they do better on poor quality grass, which mine is because it's been badly managed before I came here and the ground is really cut up by the previous horses. I have alot of surface water in winter and very poor drainage which I am trying to address. But I think in the first instance that keeping the ponies off the pasture all summr will allow a good "thatch" of grass to develop and hopefully help with the surface water. I guess I'll just have to wait and see what happens.. Thanks for your very helpful input.
 
Dave Lodge
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Location: New England
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Carole, it is good you are willing to do so much for your horses. Organic matter (thatch) can hold 7x its weight in water. Over a long period of time, you might find the organic material later has grown up and will soak up some of the excess water. This won't prevent the waterlogging though.

Some suggestions can be found in the link, which might help.
.
http://www.horseslandwater.com/paddock/seasonal

* Sow waterlogging-tolerant pasture plants on wet areas.
* Consider including swales (i.e. broad, low contour banks) and tree plantings to slow down, absorb and disperse excess water movement down slopes.
 
Carole York
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Hey hey, Dave Lodge, I didn't know that.....thanks. But surely it helps with the waterlogging merely by the fact that it soaks up so much? If its in the grass it can't be lying on the surface?
 
Carole York
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and that link was really useful. Fortunately these 4 ponies are very small...from 32 inches to 44 inches in height.....all rescues who were abused and abandoned....so they don't do too much damage with their feet because they are so light. Hopefully in time the damage done by the big horse that were here before will be rectified by nature.
 
Dave Lodge
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Location: New England
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Having the grass to soak the water helps, but usually not enough to drain the water considerably. Willows are traditionally used for soaking up water in a wet area and will do it enough to drain the water considerably, but other options exist.

I am sure some native plants would grow in these spots, maybe some edibles. Elderberry, Blueberry can take winter water logging.
 
Carole York
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yep...............i have a good number of willows already and plan to plant 500 more this winter.
 
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