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Pasture size and how many?

Hi! I don’t know if I’m posting on the right forum, but I was just wanting to get some opinions on a pasture question I have. I currently have a 4 horse barn that we just built and will be bringing our 2 horses home at the end of the summer. We have 2 - 150x150 pastures with shelters, but I would really love to have 2 more smaller pastures because we have a friend that will keeping their two horses with us so that’ll be 4 horses. We only have room for 1 more pasture about 80x80 because we are putting in an arena as well. So, that’ll be 4 horses and 3 pastures. I know there are a lot of horse barns with more horses than pasture, even though it should be the other way around, but I understand everyone’s resources and circumstances are different and just want to know whether or not the two larger pastures and and one smaller pasture will be enough for turnouts. Or should we split the 80x80 pasture into 2 - 40x80 pastures. I don’t want to split the 150x150 pastures because I have a large shelter right in the middle that would make it a little hard, but mainly because my one retired 17.2 hand horse is used to a really large pasture at her other barn and has been for several years now and has never been happier she loves being outside so I don’t want to make that any smaller for her and I can’t split her time in the pasture with another horse either I want her out as long as she can be. Basically, I just want to know whether I should add an 80x80 or 2 - 40x80 pastures I just hate anything smaller than 75x75 for a pasture, but I know anything is better than nothing. And, I wanted to get opinions on pasture scheduling if I did do 3 pastures with 4 horses. I like to do night turnouts in the summer and if I can’t turnout all the horses out together, are there any suggestions for periodic turnouts? Sorry if this is so long and confusing I’m just trying to workout every possible solution both ways and would appreciate opinions and or suggestions , if anyone understands what I’m saying lol - thanks!

Realistically, an 80x80 or 80x40 will become a dirt lot or mud lot depending on your weather condition. I’d look into grading and putting in all weather footing from the start rather than have to redo it once the fencing is in. Rotating four horses through two pastures the size of an arena is going to really strain the grass and require very good herd dynamics. Personally, I wouldn’t put more than one horse in an 80x80 space. If someone gets upset two horses in 80x80 could get really gnarly.

If this is the maximum space you have available, I’d actually do four 20x80 runs to dry lot during your wet season to try and keep some grass in the main lots.

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Ideally horses need at least 8 hours of turnout, ideally more. If you have to rotate fields you may end up with odd hours like having to bring horses in/out before or after dark. Another consideration is that horses indoors more will require more shavings and supplemental hay and dirty bedding management. Are you planning to use a dumpster and haul away?

Given the dimensions I’m thinking you might be in a more compact arid area? Composting on small acreage often isn’t practical but fields of this size will require daily manure picking to stay sanitary.

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Usually acreage is a factor more so than number of pastures. 150x150 is just over half an acre, and in total you’re looking at under 1.5 acres of turnout space. It’s certainly more than enough room for movement for four horses. I don’t know of any area where it’s enough grass for four horses, if you want the grass to replace the need to feed hay, or you want the pastures to be “full and lush” looking at all times.

Without knowing a single thing about your layout, property, location, or feeding plan, I guess I’d consider doing an 80x80 dry lot that can be used to rotate the pairs on and off the grass fields.

Thanks for your response! We will have the manure being picked up. That’s what I was worried about, having odd hours, I just really want to be able to turn them all out at the same time so they all can get as much time outside, as long as the weather is comfortable. If we do the 80x80 and split it, I definitely know it’ll be really just a dry lot, but is that still sufficient enough for a turnout daily? Should I alternate days where one horse gets the dry lot and the other gets the pasture? Like I said my one horse I have to keep her in the big one most of the day everyday, she gets depressed if she can’t go out and loves space. My other horse is a show horse who is currently being boarded in Wellington at my trainers barn and he’s on a 75x75 dry lot, so I know he’s already used to that, even though I just would prefer all the horses on huge grassy pastures, but that’s not practical for my situation. I just want to know that I’m doing my best with what I have.

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Thanks for your response! They will be on a flaked cereal forage diet, it’s the same feed my trainers horses are on and they don’t have grass pastures and they’re mostly Grand Prix jumpers that are very active and fat and healthy lol - so the grass isn’t so much the issue although I do prefer that they can graze while out in the pasture, but understand that’s not practical in my case. The larger pastures will be more for grazing obviously and the smaller dry lots will just be there for the sole purpose of getting out and moving and stretching a bit. If I have one horse per pasture 2 in the larger ones and 2 in the small, is that okay? Should I try to alternate the one larger pasture with the two smaller ones?

I probably wouldn’t even call 150x150 a pasture but still a “paddock” …but anything smaller than that is definitely not a pasture. So - meaning can be used for turnout but not grazing other than picking at whatever might be there. Hay in these paddocks will be necessary.

I think much depends on what is easy/convenient and whether you want solo or group turnout. At these sizes I don’t think rotating will make a big difference. What climate are you in? That also makes a bid difference. I’m in NY and even with 4 acres my horses can make that pretty threadbare if I don’t manage it carefully.

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That’s a very small property for 4 horses. It would probably be in your best interest to convert to dry lots and just prepare to feed hay year round. You won’t be able to maintain grass without strict management and limited turnout.

I hope the horses get along as 150x150 is not a large space to get out of the way in a disagreement with multiple horses.

Have you thought about a track system instead and then small paddocks?

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Will you be in the Wellington area still?

Personally, I’d put everyone out in 20x80 runs for 12 hours a day weather permitting and then let them go out individually or in pairs on the 150x150 for a hour or two for grazing. If you can rest each of the larger fields for 7-10 days rotating back and forth it lets the grass recover. Hopefully you’ll find your grass holds up well and you can extend hours but in my area slightly further north a 150x150 for a single horse for 12 hours of turnout would become mostly dirt by late spring and probably wouldn’t take grass at all rotating multiple horses through.

Are there local farms with similar space that could also provide guidance?

You’re working with a unique size constraint where the standard recommendations are going to be tricky. If one of the horses is training in Wellington some suggestions like a pasture paradise may be seen as too novel for your area.

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If you are not going to spend a lot of money to make a “perfect arena” with special footing and pretty fences, you could add that space to your turnout choices. We use our arena area for a winter drylot and have it in the summer grazing rotation.

Arena here is 300ft x 90ft, plus a wide edge of about 30ft on one long side for good drainage. We have perimeter fence on 3 sides with railroad ties on their sides holding footing in place on the drainage side. Husband wanted arena to appear “open” so horses are not using fences to work off of in turns. Horses need to listen to human on when or where to turn during work! We both ride and drive in the arena, need room for big movement, galloping, without always needing to immediately turn at the corners. It has been very useful over the years for an arena and turnout in both summer and winter.

To me the first error is building more stalls than horses owned as an empty stall will find a horse. Like a few others have noted your pastures are really paddocks.

We are on small acreage as land costs here is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per acre. Also we have a total limit cap imposed by the city as to the number of large and small animals allowed by ordinance. From what was posted OP maybe in a similar situation.

We have a mixed group of four horses and three miniatures And I think nine goats? goats belong to older daughter and her girls, then add the two dogs and two cats we are at the maximum allowed given the acreage we own.

We have multiple paddocks, five total, that are about 40by40 inter connected to provide separation or quarantine if needed. the pasture ? is divided into four turn outs that are large enough for the horses to run if and when they decide they are overloaded with energy. These are 200 by 150 and 300 by 150. There is a separated isolation paddock that contains the 20 meter round pen with a 30 foot buffer that is used for specific turn out.

Really we need to get back down to two head of horses as the logics of keeping four is more than double what is required for two.

Just picking the paddocks/pastures of four head really requires at least an hour a day. If you are having the gang wear flysheets and boots add another 15 minutes each just preparing them to be turned out (then washing the sheets/boots after coming back in)

Then take out space for the support items, hay storage, bedding storage, trailer(s) parking

So back to the barn, I would convert two of those stalls into a tack room and a feed room which I know was not in the question presented but I believe the inclusion of the two friend’s horses should be rethought. (that is an another issue altogether since it makes the place a boarding operation, here I would need a special permit and commercial insurance to board an unowned animal)

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I’ve lived my whole life with more horses than pens. Horses are herd animals and do enjoy living together, mutual grooming, etc. But they need to have space to escape each other or be a well bonded pair to manage smaller areas together. There have been many horses in my life I could put together in a 12x24 stall with no fuss, they’re buddies, they like to hang out, they have well established order and don’t question it, but I’ve got others that could be cornered. I really like the mentality of a pasture they can graze, even if it’s only for an hour a day. Unlimited hay is just not the same as the ability to pluck fresh grass from the ground. I currently board at a facility with 100x100 paddocks, full time, no stalls. My 3 horses were together in it quite happily, obviously dry lot, but I turn them out between paddocks for grazing most days while I pick the pen and prepare feed and hay. That grazing time is absolutely the highlight of their day. You might be able to put each pair in a 150x150 (expect those to both dry lot if they’re out most of the day every day) and keep grass up in the 80x80 and allow limited daily turnout in there for a bit of grazing when weather permits. I’d probably avoid turning out in it when it’s quite wet to prevent the hooves from ripping out the grass. I think a lot of it comes down to your comfort with group turnout and your horses’ comfort with each other. And also your time to be moving horses around a few times for an hour of grazing either each or in pairs. If you wanted to keep grass in the 150x150s you’d probably need much shorter turnout times and restrict it to dry weather use.

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With that size property, my inclination would be to put all 4 out together and supplement with hay. But if you can afford it, I would keep it to just two horses as 1.5 acres is tight for 4 horses. More horses in a small space amounts to much more work because mud tends to be a bigger problem. The horses are also more likely to get injured or develop psychological problems when they have less room to move.

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