The Green Horse section provides practical information on managing environmentally sustainable horse properties, readers stories and tips, as well as advice and articles from equestrian experts in their fields.
Vol 38 No 4
In this issue of The Green Horse you will find the following articles:
Information Exchange - Product news
WAYS TO COMBAT MOSQUITO ATTACK
STABLE STAPLES Essential herbs and homeopathics for Emergencies by Angela Davison - Horse Herbalist
CHECKING THE VITAL SIGNS
by Angela Davison - Horse Herbalist
SUMMER PASTURE by Wendy Elks
MUSCOVY DUCKS for fly control
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Summertime is wonderful for humans with the extra daylight, the beach and barbeques, but the hot months can be hard on horses and horse properties.
The major issue is pasture damage, as too much wear and tear on dry, stressed pasture leads to a host of ongoing problems such as soil degradation, soil compaction, loss of nutrient value and weed takeover.
Horse property specialist Cynthia Cooper of Natural Horse World advocates the prevention of overgrazing by sacrificing some, to preserve the rest.
The sacrifice and track system, based on ‘paddock paradise’ principles, uses a three-pronged approach: designating a ‘sacrifice’ paddock for use throughout the season; implementing a long track to promote movement; and rotational grazing ‘cells’ that can be grazed for several days and then rested for several weeks, giving pasture time to recover.
In combination, these elements reduce the incidence of bare patches (except in the one confined area) and help to optimise the survival and health of most of the pasture over summer.
If space is limited, a long, skinny sacrifice paddock, with water at one end and feed at the other, encourages beneficial movement. A long grazing track around the perimeter of a property is of particular benefit, as horses are able to follow their natural instincts, thus getting more exercise and spend more time on the move, rather than standing around, bored, digging, or getting into other mischief.
A long track can take in shady areas, and serve a double purpose. For instance, setting up a perimeter track in spring, creates a firebreak by summertime. A low spot, where run-off collects after rain, can be used to get some moisture into the horse’s hooves prior to trimming, and help reduce cracks that can then be invaded by bacteria.
With some planning, and the use of star pickets or push-in posts, and electric tape, it is possible to set up the system without a great deal of expense. In fact, a temporary set-up works well, as the property owner can experiment with what works best, alter it easily, and remove the lot if desired, to facilitate mowing.
Cynthia also recommends Jane Myers’ Equicentral system, which utilises a central, convenient-to-the-owner sacrifice area, with feeding and watering points, and grazing paddocks fanning off from it. There is plenty of information about this at www.equiculture.com.au.
An important element in both systems is dividing at least one paddock into small grazing cells. The horses can be let into a cell every few days, then moved onto the next. With ten cells, for example, it will be a month before the first cell is grazed again, giving it time to recover.
If one has the room to cut hay, these areas are good to let horses on after the grass has recovered a bit.
Variety is the spice of life, and horses enjoy the constant changes and the room to let off steam.
Setting up a system requires a bit of planning and work but it’s well worth the effort, when autumn rains roll around and the pasture bounces back to life, rather than a crop of invasive weeds.