Four Easy Tips to Maintain Your Pastures Areas
Spring showers that left us with puddles of mud in our pastures, are turning lush and green. That’s when I know its high time to get busy and evaluate my horses pastures, fence lines, gates, water areas and out-door sheds. Here are a few tips and ideas to help you save both money and time by maintaining your pasture areas now.
After seeing many accidents that could have been avoided, this takes the number one slot for frequent evaluations. Our horses spend most of their time in their pastures. It is basically their home and far too often over looked. Without safe fencing we risk accidents that could have been prevented. Not to mention, the cost of vet bills and not taking care of our best and largest investment – our horses and their well-being.
Ride or walk you fence lines and look for any protruding nails, screws, or unsecured rails. If you have wood fencing, be very sure all rails meet end to end and that they have not warped. Boards that do not line up flat can potentially injure and cut your horse. If you have rigid PVC fencing, be sure that all rails are fully secured into the post routings and that your secondary electric fencing is working to full capacity.
Take a notebook along with you as you walk your lines and jot down notes of what material you may need to do any repairs. Also take a versatile pair or fence pliers and ring shank nails for quick repairs, if needed. Tie bright plastic tape or string at repair spots. This will help to save time when you return to do repairs. If you see any high traffic areas where your horses are starting to push or lean on your fence, take measures to stop the abuse. Cut brush and trees away from your fence lines so that horses will not be tempted to lean over your fence. If your horses are eating under your bottom rail to get grass, consider adding electric and giving additional grass hay in your pasture to prevent this from occurring again in the future.
Is your pasture holding up to regular use? Do you have trouble maintaining your pasture grass? If so, you may want to consider cross fencing and use one area as a dry lot while allowing the other area to rest. Damp wet ground can become rutted and torn from happy horses. Cross fencing allowing rotational grazing, and can help to save your needed pastures. Additionally, by rotating you can knock down manure piles and help to prevent parasite problems in the resting pasture. If possible, the best option may be to add an additional pasture with an aisle in-between. Aisles help to eliminate the wear on and over common fence lines (cross fencing), and keeps your fences lasting longer.
Check your gatesWeather changes such as heat, as well as frost and thaw have a relentless way of “moving” some of our most leveled gates! Additionally, horses can do a lot of gathering and leaning at gates. After some amount of time or wear, gates must be re-leveled and checked to be sure that spaces between gate or latch posts are no more than 3 inches. Larger spacing could be potentially dangerous places for ponies and horses. Accidents can occur when a horse pushes their heads or legs through the space between the latch post and gate. When the horse pulls back, the gate pulls back to, catching the horse without a way out. Fortunately, you can avoid injury by checking your gate areas to make sure your posts are set straight with proper latch spacing. Adjust “J” bolts at gate hinges for proper spacing also. Also make sure that the long end of the bolt does not protrude too far out on the opposite side of the post. If does, consider cutting the bolt shorter. Use washers and a nut to cover the remaining end of the J-bolt.
Chain closures can create movement with your gate if not snug around your latch post. A good alternative is to install a two-way locking gate latch that keeps the gate from moving. Additionally, these latches have a ‘no sag’ feature that holds your gates straight.
If your walkways to and from your gates are worn and tracked down from use, consider using stone screenings on walk areas. The fine screenings compact more than fill dirt and will allow rain and water to drain, helping to eliminate puddles and mud – which is so much nicer during turn out.
Check watering areas
Water is one of the most important things that you horse consumes. If you have metal water troughs, check for rusted and/or dented areas that can lead to slow leaks or loss of water for your horses. Also, look over plastic tubs for cracking. Automatic waterers should also be checked frequently for proper filling. All water containers should be cleaned, bleached and rinsed thoroughly on a regular basis. If your horses like to play in your water troughs, consider using fine stone screenings under and around your watering area, this will help to eliminate standing water, puddles and bug activity.
If your hoses are outside all or most of the time, it’s important to have an area where they can get out of inclement weather – wind, snow and sun. A 3-sided shed provides a place for horses to get relief form the weather. Be sure to check existing sheds for any areas of abuse. Split wood, broken pipe, or broken siding can be places that an accident can occur. If your horses have “nested” on the dirt floor and made large impressions in the ground, refill those areas with dirt and consider using some sawdust, straw or stall mats in nap areas. It will be more comfortable inside the shed for your horse, and will help to avoid open spaces under the frame of the shed. Be sure, especially in windy areas, that you anchor your shed and that the back of it faces the prevailing wind direction. Make your horses living areas the safest that you can! Be ready to spend time with your horse early in the season by getting pasture area maintenance completed now.
Debbie Disbrow, owner of RAMM Stalls and Horse Fencing, has over 45 years experience with horses and equine-related businesses. She is a certified fence installer and has helped build fencing and stalls for horse facility owners across the USA as well as into Europe. Debbie is highly involved in horse ownership and riding. Visit her web site at www.rammfence.com,, or call 1-800-878-5644 for safer alternatives for your horses.