Timing is everything when preparing your pastures for a productive spring and summer season. If you want healthy grass come April, you’ll need to start thinking now about battening down the hatches, so to speak, for the latter days of fall and the long winter ahead.
- Mow the pastures. Chances are there are tall weeds, plants the horses have left for a reason. They are not good to eat. The more you mow these weeds, the less you will have rooting. In the fall, the grass is eaten down, so you can lower your mower blade without shortening the grass for what’s left to graze.
- Drag the Pastures. Nothing kills grass more than piles of manure. By dragging the piles, you spread the manure which can then break down easier and turn into fertilizer.
- If the pasture has “taken a beating” whether it be from drought, over-grazing, or just a long hot summer, you will need to apply additional fertilizer to replenish the soil. If you’re new to pasture management, and even if you’re not, it’s a good idea to have your soil tested. Most counties offer this service at little to no cost through their agricultural department. If your soil is deplete in any or certain nutrients, buy an all natural fertilizer that is listed safe for horses. You can most often find horse-friendly fertilizers at your local feed store or country garden store.
- Seed the pasture if needed. Buy a good blend of grass seed, suitable for your part of the country. Kentucky Blue Grass is wonderful, but it might not grow well if you live in a climate that is not compatible. A mix will work best.
- Close the pasture for winter. You will not want your horses tearing up the pasture throughout the winter. Horses traditionally are inside more in cold winter months, so when they do get outside, they tend to run and play and tear around the pasture. This will negate all the hard work.
- Fence off an area strictly for late fall, winter, and early spring turnout. Preferably the ground surface will be hard (no top soil) and in an area that drains well. A limestone paddock works great for winter turnout. Horses can run and play, have good footing, and won’t come in with legs full of mud. The pasture will thank you in the spring with a lush green covering. The horses will thank you, too.