Last Updated on May 7, 2022
You might think that all grass is the same, but making sure you have the best grass for horses will enable you to make the most of your grazing land. Let’s take a look at different grasses for horses, and find out what makes the best grazing land for keeping equines.
What Is Grass? Best Grass For Horses
It is all too easy to think of grass as the green stuff that grows on our lawns and grazing land, but this incredible plant species is actually much more than that! There are around 12,000 species of grass around the world, and they can vary widely in size and composition.
So, while grass is the green stuff covering the lawns, it also includes cereal crops such as maize and building materials like bamboo!
The digestive system of a horse is designed to enable the horse to live almost exclusively on grass. A horse will graze for up to 16 hours per day and can digest the cellulose in the grass to convert it to energy. Different species of grass vary widely in their composition and nutritional value, and this can affect the overall quality of the grazing land.
You will often see grass seed for grazing land sold as a seed mix, containing several different types of grasses. This is because not all grasses grow at the same rate, and they also prefer different weather conditions. Having a mix of grasses in your pasture will increase the chances of steady growth for many months of the year.
As well as grasses, horses also consume other plants, primarily legumes, and these are often included in a grass seed mixture. It is a good idea to have as many grasses and plants available as possible for your horse, so he can fulfill his natural instincts by browsing for food. A single type of grass may grow well and provide adequate nutrition, but it is not as beneficial as a varied diet for the horse.
So, whether you’re looking at moving your horse to a new pasture, or reseeding an overgrazed pasture, it is important to think about the type of grass you are feeding your horse. Ensuring that you are allowing your equine friend to access the best grass for horses is a sure-fire way to provide the highest quality nutrition.
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Best Grass Varieties For Horses
Cool Season Grasses – Best Grass For Horses
The most popular grass in many pasture seed mixes is KY bluegrass. This is a cool-season grass, that grows well in colder temperatures.
It thrives when cropped close to the ground, making it ideal for grazing land for horses. It will quickly cover bare areas of soil, making it a good option for restoring overgrazed land.
KY bluegrass does not grow well in hot weather and will turn brown and stop growing. However, once cooler weather returns, it should start to grow again through the colder months.
Other cool-season grasses include orchardgrass, reed canarygrass, cocksfoot, and smooth bromegrass. You may see timothy grass included in some cool-season grass mixes, but this is more suited to growing grass to cut as hay.
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Warm Season Grasses
These are grasses that grow well during warm and dry weather, providing food for horses throughout the summer. These are particularly useful in areas that have low rainfall or are prone to drought. The best warm-season grasses for horses are pearl millet and crabgrass.
Legumes – Best Grass For Horses
As well as grasses, it is customary to sow some varieties of legumes when reseeding horse pasture. They are high in protein and amino acids and are a good source of dietary fiber. Legumes also improve the quality of your soil, making more nitrogen available to other plants and grasses.
The best legumes to include in a horse pasture seed mix are alfalfa, clover, birdsfoot trefoil, and vetch. If allowed to set seeds, they will grow year after year, providing nutrition through the cooler seasons.
Other Plants And Herbs
A good horse pasture should include a wide variety of plants and herbs for the horse to browse whilst grazing. Ryegrass, chicory, and sheep’s parsley are all popular additions to horse pasture seed mixes.
Best Grass For Horses Summary
So, as we have learned, the best grass for horses is pasture land that contains a wide mix of different grasses, plants, and herbs. Horses spend up to 16 hours per day eating grass, and it is very beneficial for them to have the opportunity to browse on different types of grass. The best grass for horses will vary depending on your location and climate.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on the best grass for horses! Do you struggle to find good quality grazing land for horses in your area? Or perhaps you’re struggling to regenerate an overgrazed patch of land? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!
What Should I Plant In My Horse Pasture?
Horse nutritionalists recommend that the best quality pasture land for horses should consist of 60% grass and 40% legumes.
What Grass Should Horses Not Eat?
Grass is the natural diet for horses, but unfortunately some varieties of grass are toxic to horses! Grasses to avoid include fescue, arrowgrass, dallis grass, johnson grass, yellow bristle grass, squirreltail grass, and klein grass. These are unlikely to be found in horse pasture, but your horse might be tempted to nibble on them if you come across them on a trail ride.
When Should I Seed My Horse Pasture?
There are two periods during the year when horse pasture can be seeded. The first of these is in late summer, and grass seed sown at this time will grow slowly over the winter and take longer to establish. The other sowing period is late winter/early spring, when seed will germinate and grow quickly.
How Long After Seeding Can Horses Graze?
When your horse can graze newly-seeded pasture will depend on when the grass seed was sown. Grass must be given plenty of time to establish before horses are allowed to graze on it, otherwise it may be destroyed. As a rule of thumb, allow at least four months for grass to take root before horses are permitted to graze on it.
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse
care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since
she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local
stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She
has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in
various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the
patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then went
on to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in
the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of
horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for
educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN REVN RVN A1