Planning Our Farm

We have just put in a offer for this property and it just got accepted so now it is time to plan! It is 5 acres completely wooded but usable. We have walked the property and will take out a lot of trees but will leave some in the pastures for cover and such. So far this is the layout for the land. The road in is shared with the neighbor and cuts about 10 feet into our property. The Mother In-Law area is just a RV hookup spot/concrete pad. We are in Western Washington and primarily want to try and keep the horses out 24/7 which is why we are planning for 4 pastures. We plan for a maximum of 4 horses overall. The space behind the arena will be kept as a gravel spot for a rehab lane since my horses love to hurt them selves :sweat_smile:. Should we change the pastures to add more of them and make them more into rectangles into squares? We don’t want to do a pasture paradise track. Any advice is appreciated on the layout and such!!

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one thing that you may consider is addition of some paddocks. We have five paddocks that allow us to confine a horse(s) with an empty paddock separating them rather than letting them play games over the fences. These paddocks have various ways to get a horse in/out plus all are interconnected with direct access out of the barn,

You are doing good to Plan on paper now as it is very expensive and disheartening to have move or tear down something later

Congratulations! How fun! The drawing out part is soo exciting!

If you’re going to keep the horses out 24/7, maybe adding some shelters in the paddocks might be good!

Will you have a sacrifice paddock?

I’m not familiar with your climate so I dont know if sacrifice paddocks or shelters are absolutely necessary.

I hope closing goes smoothly for you!

Also, will you have the woods professionally cleared or DIY?

We plan to leave some trees out in the paddocks for the moment and see if shelters are necessary. I do not plan to have a sacrifice paddock, I may rearrange the pastures tho to have one. we planned to do enough rotation and have enough paddocks to avoid that lol. The climate is wet about 9 months of the year lol. But the property has really good drainage and is slightly sloped which will help. Plus we have had some major rain lately and have been able to see how the ground is holding up.

We plan to do the clearing ourselves as we have lots of help and access to equipment. We hope to sell some trees and clear or keep the rest. If needed, we will consult a professional if it all goes downhill :rofl:

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Good luck with the logging lol.

Mr LS and I call it our lumber jack feud. My place only has a few bits of forest around the edges we are mostly clearing ourselves. It is hard work but excellent exercise.

Good drainage is a blessing!

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Yay! Congrats! I’m in the same boat, but we are held up in the closing process for reasons out of our control.

I don’t think you need to make any more pastures. They are already going to be pretty small from your description of the property size. Any smaller and you’re going to have the problem of too many hooves tearing up a small area.

How often will you use your barn? Daily for feeding? Just for tacking up or extreme weather? Rarely?

I ask because I always appreciate when the barn opens into a pasture or paddock. Leading 4 horses back and forth multiple times a day gets old fast! However, I completely understand you may not be able to accommodate that change.

Good luck! As fun as it is to plan, I truly have no vision for these things. I’m always impressed when people come up with the ideas from scratch.


Yeah that is what I was worried about. I included the size of each pasture and each one is about the size of a really big sized arena. The barn will be used for daily feeding for the horses that need grain and tacking up. We plan to have enough stalls so that is really crappy weather we can bring everyone in. I would love to out the barn with it leading to the pastures but unfortunately with the size I want my arena, its not possible :rofl:

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I think that’s a great start, but I would definitely recommend an official “dry lot” with stone footing if you live in such a wet climate - especially if you want to do 24/7 turnout and are considering 4 horses. They will tear up your grass paddocks quickly, rotated or not. I have three horses on 14 acres (10 fenced) and have to utilize my dry lot a lot even with that much land to save my pastures.

How do you feel about making your arena a little longer and narrower? Maybe go 160x100 instead? That would give you room beside the barn to build a long, narrow dry lot which would be easy to do at the same time as your arena, since the base of the arena is essentially what your dry lot will be constructed of…also gives you the benefit of being able to turn horses out directly into the dry lot from the barn when weather is bad. Just an idea!


I also agree with making the arena longer and narrower, if possible.

Longer pastures are usually “preferred” for horses over square ones. Also, if you’re going to bring them in and out for meals each day, then I’d recommend getting your gates as close to your barn as you can. Most days the walk will be fine, but when you’re tired, or having a bad day, or nursing a sprained ankle, or there’s bad weather, etc., or going out of town and having a farm sitter, you’ll appreciate not having to walk 100’+ each way to get all four horses.

I assume the house already exists, does the barn as well?

If so, this is a quick idea of something I’d consider (obviously noting that I know nothing of the topography):


?? It can be pricy with cost of fencing, but this sounds like a good idea, not a bad one. Why are you opposed?

I love @mmeqcenter Mmeqcenter’s proposed layout; she’s maximizing the space and making a very efficient lay out that’s ideal for intense rotational grazing.

If you do 24/7 turnout, you’ll need run ins in at least two of the proposed paddocks.
My concern is that with 5 acres total, it’s going to be difficult to do 24/7 turnout for 3 horses, let alone 4. You will definitely need a sacrifice paddock, and you’regoing to have to keep horses in the sacrifice paddock when the weather is bad enough that they’ll tear up the other pastures.

And if you do rotational grazing by moving paddocks once a week, you’ll still need to plan for some manure removal, some harrowing, and reseeding and fertilizing.


I don’t know why the OP is opposed, but I can tell you for me, my soil will not support a paddock paradise track. It holds to much moisture and makes a mucky mess without vegetation.

It’s more expensive, as you point out, because of not only fencing, but because you need year round hay.

It’s more time consuming to maintain because you ideally place hay at multiple places along the track: unless it’s set up in such a manner that the track loops back upon itself, you’re likely going to have to travel some distance from the barn to place hay.

It’s also time consuming because I feel like you need to clear manure regularly from the track (I guess this depends on your set up).

You also need to maintain extra fence line with repairs, weed eating, etc.

I truly love the concept. I have seen farms that naturally lend themselves to creating tracks. But I don’t think it can be successful on every piece of land or for every lifestyle.


I don’t know your environment or how many horses but 5 acres will not support that many horses out 24/7 without a sacrifice area. You will have space but not enough grass to support unless you have just one or two horses. Also when you clear trees a bunch of the ones that are left will not make it due to soil compaction and damage from equipment. They will slowly decline and die especially the larger ones. So you need to protect the ones that you want to save.


Good point, @SusanO. It you want to perserve trees, the best plan is to leave a corner or small copse completely untouched, then use small equipment to limb up and clear brush. Selectively clearing and trying to maintain existing mature shade trees is really, really hard to do.

You might also consider having your barn on one side open directly to a paddock; that can be a big labor saver and you won’t have to have a run in shed in that paddock. You could move the dry lot to the other side of the barn or between the barn and garden.

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What’s your plan for the ground after clearing trees? If planting pasture you will need at least a year for the seed to take and become stabilized. A sacrifice paddock would certainly help during this time.


I never thought I needed a dry lot. Then added one at our most recent farm. Horses and donks can access from the barn overhang. Saves the pasture when it’s wet for sure but even nicer is the piece of mind I can get them out for a few hours without the walk to the “big field” if I’m crazy crunched for time or the weather is terrible (like 6 weeks of drifting snow this winter) AND Mr. non-horsey fourfillies can feed and turn out in a pinch literally without touching a creature. Priceless.


THIS X1000
I am having a problem reading your drawing - I see the green square is your barn, but what is the big blue square between it & pastures?
Sorry, Old Eyes failing me?
If that is a space that can be moved, IIWM, I would (& did) attach my barn to pastures.
I did this - also on 5ac - encircling my 36X36 pole barn with a sacrifice paddock at the front.
If your weather gets as wet as you say, then a sacrifice is someplace you can put hay out & spare pastures just getting established or coming back from Winter.

I have been fortunate that my small herds - 2-3 geldings over 17yrs - have gotten along so well that I leave the rear stall doors open to the sacrifice & they bring themselves in - separating into “their” stalls - for feeding & turn themselves out when done.
I do a 10P Night Check, top off water, toss a flake if they’ve eaten what was there & dispense cookies. Lately they come in from the larger field for this when they see the barn lights go on.
Now that my pastures are starting to grow new grass, they are out nearly 24/7, proven by this being the 3rd day I have not had to pick a single pile from any stall.
If this sounds like it won’t work for you, maybe attach each stall to a pasture entrance?

This is my sacrifice paddock, Year One:

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Where is the compost pile or dumpster for used bedding ?


Just for fun, I came up with a different plan if your barn is NOT currently existing and you can put it wherever you want.

As others have pointed out, four horses on five acres is a lot, and you’ll need to supplement hay year round and be very careful about grazing if you want the fields to stay “nice looking.” Adding to that, you won’t actually have five acres of pasture - your drawing only has about 2.18 acres of pasture. There’s a book about managing small acreage I think, I can’t remember the name.

But, with your small pasture acreage and four horses, I think having a dry lot is imperative, and you’re going to need to use it regularly. So, I made a bigger one, and less number of paddocks. You can always use temporary fencing to make smaller paddocks for rotating if desired.


I know it’s not ideal but my arena is my dry lot with a bit of extra space for hay feeding/shelter on the end. Takes maybe a bit more maintenance for the riding area but provides a lot more room for the horses to move around.

I also suggest putting in a permanent perimeter fence with moveable cross fencing until you get a really good idea how your land will work. Horseguard makes a fantastic electric tape. Not at all like the farm store type I’ve seen.

When I started on this farm I was surprised that the lower part of my pasture is dryer than the top. The left side is dryer than the right. The part I thought would grow the best grass, grows the worst grass even with fertilizing.