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How Much Land per Horse?

There is a limit to the amount of trampling that grass will tolerate especially when the ground is wet. That limit is often exceeded in horse and pony paddocks, with the addition of jumps and shelters, the result is bare patches of ground and clumps of nettles, docks and thistles, thus the available edible grass is much reduced.

Bad field

Fortunately, treatment like this is now a rarity and has all but vanished. This photo does not do justice to how awful the field really was. The field was full of weeds, mud, and high mounds of soil, with very little edible grass. Although this picture was taken in the late spring, the ponies are already being fed hay, which I hasten to say should have the polythene removing from the bale! And as for the bath words fail me.

The following guidelines are suggested in the hope that you will have a better understanding and be able to make the best use of this valuable resource.

What is an Optimum stock rate?

Each horse requires an area 64mtrs x 64mtrs (70yrds x 70yrds) of fence or hedge line, this is equivalent to very slightly more than one square acre. There are however some variable factors:-

  • The type of soil.
  • The varieties of grass.
  • How well the grass is managed.
  • How much rest the grass can have between cycles.
  • Whether the horse or pony lives out all year or whether they are stabled for part of the year.
  • How much food the horse or pony needs to eat in a 24-hour period to sustain him.
  • Whether the field is mucked out daily.

Most land used for horse and ponies is of relatively poor quality and will only support one horse per 2.4 acres (one hectare). The grass can be improved with good management, and the average paddock will then support two horses per 2.4 acres (one hectare), this allows 1.2 acres per horse. At this stock rate, it is possible to section up the paddock into three areas one for maintenance and treatments, one for use and one for resting after maintenance has been completed to allow the grass to grow.

The number of horses or ponies should not be more that the pasture will feed during the growing season (spring and summer), however it is better to stock the paddock at a rate that will provide grass all year round.

Overstocking has serious disadvantages, if the pasture deteriorates, it will fail in it's main function, which is to feed your horse or pony. If the concentration of horses is excessive the likelihood is that parasitic infections will build up to epidemic proportions. It is important that both horse owners and landlords be aware of the need for moderation is the number of horses per acre, then the paddock will not become just an exercise area and make it necessary to purchase food for the horse or pony to eat.

Good Field

This picture of a mare and foal was taken in early June, apart from the fact that the field could do with skipping out, there is plenty of grass and what an idyllic scene much better than the other picture.

 48040 sq. yards 4046.86 sq. metres 1 Acre
 2.471 acres 10,000 sq. metres 1 Hectare


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