Last Updated on September 17, 2021
If you are thinking of getting a horse, you might be wondering about how many acres of grazing you will need. While some horses live outside in fields all year round, others are stabled and just go out to pasture for short periods. But how much pasture per horse do you need?
Let’s take a look at horse pasture and find how much pasture per horse is needed!
What Is The Purpose Of Horse Grazing?
Horses are herbivores. This means that they are animals that only eat plants. More specifically, horses are grazing herbivores – their main diet is grass. Domesticated horses eat a diet which consists almost entirely of grass – either as freshly grazed grass or as hay or haylage.
Good quality horse pasture will provide all the nutrition a horse will need. Grass contains high levels of fiber, essential to keep the horse’s digestive system healthy. It also contains balanced levels of vitamins, minerals, and energy.
How Many Acres Does A Horse Need To Graze?
To provide access to good quality grazing for your horse all year round, you will need two acres of pasture per horse. This will give you enough grass for your horse to be able to graze in all seasons, although you may need to give extra hay during the winter months.
However, this doesn’t mean you can turn your horse out into a two-acre pasture and expect the grass to feed him all year round. You will need to use fencing to section off the land and rotate the areas the horse is allowed to access.
This is because horses are selective grazers – they will pick out their favorite grasses and ignore the ones they don’t like so much. By rotating the areas the horse can access, you will give the grazed land time to recover and grow before the horse returns to that paddock.
Grass also grows at different rates according to the time of year. In the spring, grass grows very quickly, and you may need to limit the area your horse can access. This is vital to prevent the horse from eating too much and becoming overweight.
How To Calculate How Many Acres Of Pasture Per Horse
So, as a rough guide, you will need two acres of pasture per horse. However, there are many factors which will affect how much pasture you need. Here is what you need to think about when calculating how many acres of pasture per horse.
Type Of Horse
Some horses put on weight very easily and will not need much pasture to keep them at healthy body weight. Others will need a lot more grass to prevent them from getting too thin. The size of the horse will also affect how much pasture they need.
Type Of Pasture
Not all grass is the same! Some pasture is very rich in lush grass, which will make horses put on weight very easily. Other pastures may be described as ‘poor’, meaning the grass does not grow well.
The climate in your area will affect how well the grass grows on your pasture. If you have long, hot, dry summers, the grass will not grow well at all. Similarly, if you have cold and wet winters the land will become waterlogged and boggy, with less grass for your horse.
How much pasture you need depends on how much you are planning on using it. If you plan to keep your horse outside all year round, you will need at least two acres of grazing land per horse.
Horses that are stabled for some of the day or night can manage with less pasture. These horses will be fed hay or haylage when they are stabled. The time spent out at pasture is reduced, so they will eat less grass.
If you plan on feeding extra hay or haylage while they are out at pasture, you can manage with less land per horse. You will still need to rotate the paddocks your horse grazes in, to stop the grass from being overgrazed.
Sometimes a horse owner will need extra pasture if they want to make their own hay for their horse. Buying hay can be expensive, so making your own is a great way to keep costs down. However, this does mean you need more grazing, so the money-saving benefits might be lost if you need to rent extra land and hay-making equipment.
What Is The Best Type Of Horse Grazing?
The best type of horse grazing is known as mixed pasture. This means that the grass is made of a wide range of different grasses, rather than just one type. The grazing land may also have different plants and herbs which horses like to browse on.
Grazing land for horses should be well-drained to prevent it from becoming waterlogged and boggy. Horse hooves will quickly damage wet pasture, destroying the grass and making it unusable.
Horse grazing should also have some sort of shelter for the horse. This could be a high hedge, trees, a solid fence, or a purpose-built field shelter. The land should be securely fenced and divided up into smaller fields to allow you to rotate your grazing pasture.
You may need to mow or cut your pasture if the grass becomes too long. Weeds that horses do not eat, such as thistles, may need to be controlled if they start to take over the grazing land. Some grazing land will need fertilizer to keep the grass healthy.
So, as we’ve learned, one horse needs a minimum of two acres of pasture if they live outside all year round. The amount of pasture a horse needs varies between different breeds and types of horses. The best type of pasture for horses contains mixed grasses, herbs, and plants.
We’d love to hear about your experiences – do you struggle to find enough pasture for your horse? Or maybe you have a question about horse grazing? Add a comment below this post and we’ll get back to you!
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 four-legged friends.
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN EVN VN A1 PGCE