Equine World UK

For those that love horses

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caring for the horse at grassThe advantages of keeping a horse at grass is that it is more natural, horses can be kept as a group, the risk of behavioural problems occurring are less than with a stabled horse, less attention is needed and costs are lower. However there are also disadvantages as the grass kept horse may require greater preparation for riding particularly if wet and muddy.

Although less attention is needed for a horse kept at grass the horse should be checked daily for signs of ill health and any signs of injury and care is also needed of the grazing pasture. The maintenance and management of the field is an important part of the care of the horse kept at grass to ensure safety, high quality grazing and lack of poisonous plants.

Any grass kept horse should have a sheltered area available. In addition to a sheltered area providing shelter from winds, rain or snow in the winter it is equally important during the summer to provide relief from the heat of the sun. Shelters can either be man made or natural shelter can be provided by hedges and trees.

Many horses kept at grass thrive well during the summer on grass alone but as the grass subsides during the autumn and winter months hay will need to be fed to compensate for the lack of grass available and concentrate feed may also be required during the colder months. During particularly dry summers the grass available may become sparse and hay may need to be fed early.

Finer horses and/or those with white legs can be prone to mud fever over the winter months.

During the spring the grass available is lush and although not a problem for most horses it can cause obesity and some horses and ponies may also suffer from Laminitis. Therefore restricted access to grass may need to be considered. This can be achieved by putting a grazing muzzle on the horse without the need to move the horse or moving the horse to a pasture with less grass, or fencing off a portion of the field to provide a starvation area.

During the summer pale horses and those with pale areas on the face are particularly prone to sunburn, particularly around the nose and mouth, and this can be prevented by applying an equine sun cream at the beginning of each day. Horses and ponies are also much bothered by flies during the summer and although their manes and tails and those of other horses nearby are put to use in flicking away flies, fly rugs and/or fly repellents applied daily provide effective relief.

Water should always be available and checked regularly. During the winter it may be necessary to break any ice covering the water several times a day to allow access to the water and regular refills may be needed during the summer months if no automatic system is in place.

All fencing should be adequate and safe. Walls and post and rail fencing are effective and safe. Thick strong hedges provide suitable containment and also act to provide shelter from the wind but may become damaged by horses over time rendering them less effective. Electric Fencing can also be used alone or in combination with fencing or hedges to provide more secure fencing. Barbed wire is not recommended as this can cause minor injuries and scratches and occasionally more serious injuries.

Horse trample down and destroy much of the grass in the field and over time areas can become so heavily stained with droppings that the grass becomes of little value. Therefore it is wise to manage grazing areas by rotating the use of fields or partitioning a field to allow an area to recover. Daily removal of droppings or periodical harrowing of the field are also effective methods of limiting damage to grass.