With proper planning, you can make your small farmette horse-friendly!
Not all horse owners have the luxury of large fields. In reality, many horses live comfortably on small acreage. It does require more planning and management though. Land is expensive, so a few acres may be all you can purchase. That’s okay, as long as you get the facility ready ahead of time!
Consider these main goals- no to limited mud in pastures, grazing grass, few weeds and proper manure management. If you can meet all of these key points, then you can likely keep your horse healthy and happy.
Create a Dry Lot
A small enclosure used for turnout is considered a sacrifice area or dry lot. These are essential for small acreages. You will want to take your horse off pasture during the rainy and wet season or when it becomes overgrazed. Your dry lot will allow your larger pastures to rest and regrow.
When constructing this smaller paddock, try to select an area on high ground and away from water. It should have good drainage and proper footing. RAMM offers mud management panels that are perfect for high-traffic areas. These panels confine gravel footing.
Lastly, it’s ideal for the paddock to be roughly 350 square foot per horse. Some horses may do fine on smaller lots, while others will need a larger space. Overall, the dry lot should allow for some running and playing. Make sure this confined safe has proper fencing, as your horse may test it a bit more. Fencing should be at least four feet high. If using electric, the wires should be high enough to hit your horse’s chest.
Because your acreage is smaller, you’ll have to be extra careful how you use it. A field in poor health will be muddy in the fall and winter, have lots of weeds in the spring and be dry and dusty in the summer. It can be helpful to develop a rotation system between your fields and dry lot. You can allow the grass to be taken down to three inches, then move your horses to the next pasture. When the grass is roughly seven to eight inches, the horses can be turned out on it again. The ground should be firm and not soupy or soggy.
Mowing can actually be beneficial to your pastures. It prevents the growth of weeds and promotes favorable species of forage. Be careful to not go too low! It’s a good idea to maintain a height of three to five inches, depending on the type of grass.
Those that practice good field management often test their soil. By performing a soil analysis, you can document the soil nutrient levels and pH over the years. While levels will vary considerably from farm to farm, a good pH level for grass is between seven and eight. You may have to add lime to increase the soil pH. Other key nutrients include phosphorous, nitrogen and potassium. Your soil analysis will show deficient areas.
At some point, your pastures may become overrun with weeds. This can be dangerous, as some of harmful to your horse’s health. Herbicides may be used to control weeds, but they don’t usually resolve the issue entirely. Ultimately, your pastures may need to be reseeded with desirable grasses.
A good manure management system can also make a huge difference. It’s a good idea to pick up manure every one to three days. Not only will this prevent a messy buildup, but you can reduce the number of insects on your property.
It won’t be easy, but with proper management your horse can live happily on smaller acreage. Get ready for some extra work though!
Emily Griffin is a mama to two stunning daughters, a wife to her hunky husband, an experienced equestrian, and an Arizona native. She resides in a very small town in Southeastern, Arizona. Her days consist of raising children, everything equine, reading/ writing, and balancing the fine line between motherhood and insanity. She appreciates nature, the smell of a satisfying rain, and the lovely sunsets the Arizona deserts have to offer. Her life is unbridled in every sense of the word and she wouldn’t have it any other way! Follow her on Instagram at @unbridledmama.