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Paddock footing (virgin grass)

hello everyone! i’m new here and this is my first post, so bear with me if i do something stupid (i hope i’ve got forum etiquette). i’ve spent considerable hours scanning this forum for answers to my other questions, but i don’t think i’ve seen a topic really related to what i am about to ask (if one exists, please direct me!).

i have a 10 acre property that will soon have a small barn. of course, with a barn comes paddocks. the plots we have picked out have good general drainage - we’ve observed the rainwater drainage for the 4 years we’ve been here and feel confident about the location of barn & paddocks.

i think we have the fencing picked out alright, but my concern is more general - the footing. this land has never been used for animals before, although all around us are cows and other folks have pasture horses. my show horse (plus a companion horse) will be coming home once this barn is up and running, and his current pasture is very flat and very even, with thinner grass, while my paddock has some bumps and unevenness and thick grass used for cattle hay. i wouldn’t say ruts, and there are no obvious dangerous holes, but it’s not what you would call perfectly level, and the large clumps of grass roots are concerning.

i am worried about the horses running and stumbling. i can’t tell if i’m being paranoid (which i am quite prone to), or if this is a legitimate concern. i know this is probably hard to answer without knowing the true degree of unevenness, but i just wanted to ask somewhere. i plan to cut the grass regularly to make sure the terrain is as visible as possible, but i still worry. like i said, people in surrounding areas have horses and similar ground and they are all okay, but you know - my horse is my darling and i want to start things off right. he doesn’t run crazy on a regular basis, but once in a while he does, so the unevenness worries me. i don’t know if i’m trying to coddle him too much, or if he would adapt, or if this is a true issue.

the point of all that: should the paddock uneveness worry me? if yes, how can i go about making due with what i have? is the only solution to till it all up, smooth it out and wait for grass to grow back?

Your horses should be fine on the uneven ground.

Mowing should help the clumpiness. It sounds like it may be fescue, which tends to grow in clumps. 10 acres is more than enough for 2 horses so if you don’t like the unevenness of the ground I may consider cross fencing the pastures and tilling and reseeding the pastures.

We bought our farm last spring. The pastures had been neglected and just bushhogged for years. Nothing grazing on it. We didn’t do anything to the grass other than mow it often.

ah, thanks! i figured i was just being overly anxious (as if there aren’t plenty of other details to worry about). i definitely plan on improvement over time, but for the initial 6 months to a year it’ll have to be just mown. i’m starting with two fenced paddocks and eventually i’ll work out some alternating use/improvement schedule.

Unless your horse has some kind of injury/impairment and there aren’t actual holes in the ground to break a leg on, I wouldn’t hesitate to throw my horses out in an uneven pasture.

My mare actually lives in a pasture with a ditch running through it. Its about a foot wide and about a foot deep and cuts across the entire pasture. They run around and are just fine. And she’s got a gimpy hind end from some injury last year (sustained on a different farm). She navigates it at a dead run just fine.

My gelding grew up in a hilly, uneven field in KY.

Welcome to the posting side of things.
If you saw what we gallop our 2 year olds over you would cringe. Or the ground/footing our Fox hunters have to deal with. Our paddocks/fields this time of year kind of look like the surface of the moon in places from all of the freeze, thaw.
Personally I think that uneven/transitional footing is good for horses, helps them become more agile and athletic. Builds “muscle memory”.
I know of no “studies” to back me up on this and it may be just intuitive having no bases in fact. I look at it the same as when my “city, suburban” friends visit the farm and we walk around the fields. They are slower in step and apt to stumble and some come up with a twisted ankle from always living/walking on perfect “footing”.

Not sure if you’re on the dry or wet side of Texas, but wait until it rains and roll it with a turf roller.


thanks all for your replies!

my initial reaction was, as i said, just me being paranoid. my horses thankfully have no special issues or anything, and the show horse is really quite adaptable in general - i just have a silly desire to handle with kid gloves =)

but common sense says he’s a horse, they are built to live outside, he should and will be able to manage natural lumpy grassland. and i agree with you gumtree, it makes sense on a basic fitness level and since he’ll be in a quasi-retirement at home, the little extra toning couldn’t hurt, hehe.

Horses probably like uneven terrain better! As for me I’d rather run (or walk) on a trail than on a treadmill or side walk any day!!!