Pasture management question

I have three super easy keepers on almost 5 acres of pasture. In previous years I have done rotated grazing but I always end up struggling with one pony who refuses to wear a muzzle. All of these horses are varying degrees of overweight and I’m wondering if I should stop rotating and just leave the whole pasture open so that the grass never gets particularly long, and maybe even lets some weeds get established? My vet once commented that a weedy pasture is good for easy keepers (assuming the weeds aren’t toxic). Has anyone tried this approach?

Not intentionally; but I used to separate my pasture in summer and one summer I just didn’t get it done on time and turned them out. It’s sad to see how much they waste it - the roughs get bigger and bigger. But it does accomplish what you are looking for - if it’s small enough. 3 on 5 acres…might still be more than enough to keep them fat.

I had considered fencing in additional acreage I bought but it seems to just be an expense that isn’t useful - 2 of my 3 would be healthier if they never grazed on grass again.

A movable electric wire works. Start by allowing a narrow strip of grazing, fenced off with step in electric posts. Each day, extend the location of the electric wire a few feet further out into the fresh grazing, to allow a restricted amount of access each day. When the first field is grazed, move on to your next field with the same plan. Give the first field a week or so to start to recover, then run a mower over it, to mow down any invasive weeds.


Your vet is correct, more weeds, less grass for easy keepers.

I have 2 equines at home- one has metabolic issues and the other is a donkey. 2 of the 3 grass paddocks we have are on the front of our home so we try not let them get trashy looking, bare to the ground if you will. We haven’t fertilized them in 10 years but the grass still remains. I can only use them lightly until the spring grass dies back.

A friend has a retired Connemara of mine and her draft cross. They live in a field that has minimal grass but lots of “stuff” and they are happy as can be roaming her 4 acre field with no restrictions or muzzles.


Where I live, overgrazed fields come up in toxic inedible buttercup.


Keep in mind that over grazed short grass can be really high in sugars.


Yes, this is a good point and is something that I need to monitor because the pony who hates the muzzle has foundered in the past. It’s unclear whether it was due to poor farrier work or grass but I need to keep an eye on him. My hope is that if they have the entire 5 acres to roam, they will move more to get to the grass that is a bit longer and easier to eat. I have also considered the grazing strip approach, but that sounds like a lot of work with moving the fences and then mowing the areas they aren’t getting to soon enough. I guess what I’m saying is I’m trying to find a lazy solution.

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One option might be a “Paddock Paradise” type setup where they are on a track around the edge, and let into sections of the pasture to graze as appropriate. Maybe the pony can just stay on the track with hay most of the time, and still be able to see his friends who are grazing.


I don’t know your area or climate but goodness … you have to admire Katy Watts and her dogged fight to educate about forage. It’s such a mind F to think horses might be harmed by what we envision as their utopia!

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This is very interesting, but slightly depressing. Where I live there isn’t much grass season where it is not either cool or drought. I have no idea whether the grass is nutrient deficient. Looks like I have some work to do to sort this out :thinking:

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Yes, same here. But in general horses don’t eat it as long as you’re giving them something (hay) instead. If you don’t mow a lot, though, you just keep getting more.

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They don’t eat it, but you effectively lose your pasture, the grass won’t regrow. So be watchful about overgrazing and letting weeds replace grass. The only really palatable weed here that will fill in overgrazed grass is clover which can also be a problem. Once you graze down enough to compromise the grass turf root system then you are left with no grass and mud and inedible weeds. It’s a nice idea that there could be tasty nutritious weeds that will pop up in your grass, but if they are tasty like dandelions they will get eaten down and out. If you over graze and damage the turf roots, you will by definition get inedible and toxic invasive weeds because that’s all the horses will allow to grow. Overgrazing is not something to be taken lightly as a pasture management strategy.


Oh I hate the buttercups!! They are up right now. How do I get rid of them other than mowing?

I agree with @Scribbler. In the past I have not managed my pastures properly. I have easy keepers and I figured that they didn’t need lush grass when turned out. For several years I had 2 horses here on 4.5 acres of pasture. The pastures weren’t great but weren’t awful either. Last year I added a pony and that was the tipping point for my pastures. They got overgrazed and now they are weedy and it is taking the grass forever to come in this spring.

I am mending my ways this year and am keeping the horses off the pasture until it is 6” to 8” tall, have fertilized, and will rotate pastures. I have done lots of research on this and the consensus seems to be that overgrazed and stressed pasture has more sugar than one that is properly managed.

There was a recent post on this subject and someone posted pics of their pastures on a year when they did not rotate and then on a year when they did. There were pretty dramatic and convinced me that I need to change my ways.

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Thanks everyone for the insight, I really appreciate it. After reading all these comments and doing a little more research, I have gone back to my original plan of setting up a grazing track.


We sprayed with 2-4D last year (we used GrazeOn, but I think any 2-4D product should do the same thing?). We had AWFUL buttercups from poorly managed pastures, but not a single one this spring. We did spray again this spring just to be sure we got anything that might be sprouting, but I’m not even sure we needed to.

I tried digging and pulling the buttercups by hand last year, but it doesn’t appear that I even made a dent in them. I realllly didn’t want to use Grazon because I compost manure for my garden, but I may have to spray next year and then start a separate manure pile to only be spread on grass areas.

I find that mowing is the best way to go. I mow only once or twice a year. After about 3 years, no more buttercups. Fertilizing and seeding also make a huge difference because the grass will outcompete the weeds in well fertilized soil. I’d spend my money there rather than on herbicides.

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You may want to test your soil and see if it needs any amendments. Buttercups like low pH (which is also not as good for your grass), so liming may help if needed. I limed 2/3rds of my pasture a few years ago after soil testing and the 1/3rd that the truck couldn’t get to (too wet because it’s low-lying) still has more buttercups than the part that was limed, where they are now pretty sparse.

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we are on small acreage and the best way I have found to eliminate weeds was to stop feeding round bales

During the droughts over the last fifteen years often we were getting round bales of questionable content that introduced all sorts of weeds which took about two years to clear out.

Now I just use baled hay of known quality