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Getting an overgrown pasture ready for horses

My DH and I have turned an overgrown mess of former row crops into a 2.5 acre pasture over the last year. I’m very proud of our work and figuring out everything as we went, but now have a conundrum. We decided, for better or worse, to let the pasture go to seed. With the tall fescue came weeds, but it really is predominantly long as* grass. Currently fencing it, what would you do to get horses onto it safely? I’m thinking temp fencing limited areas and limiting time out as well as putting on fly masks for eye protection. Will that work? Am I being overly protective of my little babies? Or is there too much risk?

If you’ve got a heavy grass coverage then you are WAY ahead of the game!

Tall Fescue really does get TALL. So do some weeds, but the grass right now is your friend. It is not, however, the friend of grazing horses. You’ll have to mow it to a height of 8" or so to allow safe grazing.

If your weed load is not heavy I’d mow it, and turn the stock out on it to graze. Then, starting next spring, get after the weeds with 2,4,D in two sprayings, one in the spring when the weeds are small and you’ll get the early emergence variety and then again around now or a bit earlier to get the late emergence ones.

Given that horses “spot graze” you’ll have to watch and if you see them eating to dirt then rotate them off and give the grass a chance to rejuvenate. Tall Fescue is tough to kill without using RoundUp. But thin patches give the weeds a chance. Spot spraying as required can help control that.

You should also check with your County Agent and see what they have in advice for your specific piece of ground.

Good luck as you go forward.


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Thank you so much! This is the answer I needed. I am borrowing a bush hog STAT!

We are rehabbing an overgrown 3 acres that we bought last year - mowing does wonders. We need to pull out the 2,4-D, but honestly the mowing has kept it mostly in check. After 3 weeks of weekly mowing it literally looked like a brand pasture - some of the weeds died off and we only have the shorter weeks that need to be sprayed.

Hopefully our ponies appreciate the hard work when they move out here from the boarding barn!

Frequent mowing does wonders for weed control. In fact, it’s been my experience that it’s the single most effective tool. That’s not to say that fertilizing and spraying don’t matter, but they aren’t going to give you the weed control you want without mowing.

Absolutely. Mowing will be regular after this first year.

Mowing is part of the process. So is 2,4,D, RoundUp, fertilizer, and lime. Use them correctly and in the right sequence an the job is done quickly and without much muss and fuss.