How To Feed Your Sward (Grassland)
The basis for growing good grass is a healthy soil without deficiencies, which will produce nutritious food for your horse. All grass needs an adequate supply of nitrogen, phosphates and potash together with lime and trace elements. For the best results these four major elements should be present in balanced proportions. Before applying any fertiliser the paddock should be analysed, which can be done by the Ministry of Agriculture or by some fertiliser suppliers
All grassland needs nitrogen, this element is the leaf maker. It can be applied artificially from a bag or by spreading farmyard manure. However where clover is plentiful then nitrogen will be produced from the clover root nodules. Where clover is less vigorous the application of nitrogen may be necessary, but this will only apply to poor starved soil, as too much lush grass can lead to digestive upsets in horses and ponies.
Phosphate ( P205)
Bone is mainly composed of calcium and phosphates and an imbalance in the ratio will affect the bone formation in young stock. The grass root development requires phosphate, and unless the soil analysis shows plenty of phosphate available to the sward it will be necessary to apply a dressing to the paddock.
Lime rich soils and light soils tend to be deficient in potash. This element is needed for flower production or in grassland terms seed-heads. Potash may be applied at any time of the year except when the ground is frozen. It is not easily washed out of the soil except on light sandy soil, where is may be necessary to split the dressing to winter and summer applications.
Lime is essential to the well being of the sward, it is measures in the terms of pH value, neutral being 7.0. The best way to make good a deficiency in lime is to dress the land with ground limestone or chalk. Basic slag (low-grade) lime provides not only lime but also phosphates and many other minerals. Lime is probably the most important fertiliser for horse paddocks.
Horse manure harbours the larvae and eggs of parasitic worms. Very high temperatures are required to kill the larvae and eggs in the much heap. On permanent pasture horse manure may be spread in the autumn and left for the rain to wash in over the winter, however the muck will make the grass unpalatable for the horse to eat over the winter. This method is only suitable in the horse is to be stabled over the winter and the paddock left fallow (unused). It is also advisable to graze cattle or sheep on the paddock before turning the horse out.
Farmyard manure is full of organic matter and improves the condition of the sward without the dangers that horse manure possess. Farm yard manure contains nitrogen, phosphates and potash, which provide a steady supply to the grass. The only disadvantage is that the muck makes the grass unpalatable to eat and should therefore be spread only when the paddock can be left fallow until the muck has washed into the soil.
When To Put Fertiliser Onto The Ground
The short answer is whenever convenient, providing the ground is not frozen. An application of fertiliser is better put on at any time of year rather than none at all; providing the field or part there of can be fenced off and not used until the fertiliser has washed into the ground.