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What’s wrong with my pasture?!

This is a weird one, I’ve scoured the Internet for information and haven’t come up with anything…

My horses won’t eat the grass in my pasture!!!

I have two horses on a three acre pasture, they are in their dry lot overnight and have the option to go graze all day - but they don’t touch the grass. The only time they graze is May and June at which point they decide the rest of the pasture is inedible :woman_shrugging:t2:

Horses have only been here a year and a half, previous owners had no animals on the land. Twenty some years ago it had cattle on it.

I’ve seeded, fertilized, mowed, but other than those two months in the spring/early summer they don’t graze. Tons of grass left. Horse friends in my area do far less pasture and manure management than I do, and their horses are grazing several months out of the year.

Planning on having someone from the county extension out to see if he can help, but any ideas?

Unless you have eyes on them 24/7, what makes you think they aren’t eating any grass?
3ac for 2 horses is a lot of ground to cover.
I’d expect that pasture to look pretty good(grassy) with just the 2 on it & not All Day Turnout.

For reference:
My 3 - horse, pony, mini - are now on limited turnout in my large pasture.
Compared to your 3ac, this field is less than 2ac & they’re out from around 7A until 4P when I close it off.
The neighbor who usually bushhogs down the overgrowth for me wasn’t able to this year.
So when I reopened this field to horses (after mini tried to founder it got closed) it was waaaay overgrown.
34" mini was nearly invisible in it.
After a couple months they have grazed down portions, but still a lot of tall, inedible growth out there.
My smaller pasture - maybe 1/4ac - has been open to them 24/7 & though pretty well grazed down, still has grass.
I know they’re grazing as hay consumption is down.
A 40# bale lasts nearly 2 days.
I feed hay 3X daily & lately morning hay (fed in stalls) becomes evening hay as they munch a bit, then head for the pasture.
Overnight, when the big field is closed, all hay in stalls gets eaten.

First off, where are you at? And what seed did you use?
Horses do think some grass is gross. South Florida grass is not very palatable to some horses*. It’s usually a St. Augustine and native mix and horses that are used to ‘northern’ grasses think it’s nasty. Some horses will also turn their heads up at Bahia, and rarely at bermuda. While these warm season grasses are most common in Florida, Louisiana, parts of texas, etc, it does grow up the eastern seaboard.
This is just one example of how a regional grass can be seen as ‘gross’ to some horses.

*the horses that grow up on it seem to like it just fine though.


Yes - we need more information. Where are you located? What did you seed with? Can we see pictures?

How long were horses off while you seeded? (Because, if not long enough, they may have eaten seedlings as they emerged and what is actually growing is not the grass you planted?)

@Littlechestnuthunter, are they simply not going out there and eating anything and that is why you are saying they will not graze or are you saying they are not grazing because it looks uneaten?

My horses prefer to eat the clover (which we did not plant, it just took over) so they will graze parts of the pasture down to nubs and leave large quantities of other areas untouched.
Add the rough area(s) and I could see how one might say they will not eat the pasture. (I don’t say this, I can see how someone else might think this.)

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First picture is from May. I had seeded in February with a pasture blend of bluegrass, fescue, Bahia, clover, and a few other I can’t remember. Bought seed from local feed store. I’m in the Midwest. First pic is when they were first allowed back on it.

I do wonder if they ate all of the “new” grass and don’t like the native grass that grows in the pasture. I probably didn’t keep them off long enough. They weren’t in the pasture from the time I seeded until mid-may.

Second two pics are when they won’t touch the grass, pretty recent pics. Pasture looks similar now.

I can see the pasture from the house and I am positive they don’t graze it. They eat hay all day instead. If I take them out of the barn to the yard, they dive for the grass there like they haven’t eaten in weeks :woman_shrugging:t2:
image image image

What happens when you remove the hay?


Admittedly, I haven’t really tried that, other than for very short periods of time. They typically walk around sniffing different areas then stand around. And then I cave and throw them hay :woman_facepalming:t2:

Is there a way to determine what kind of grass is growing? One section of the pasture has a fine grass, that looks yummy to me anyway, that they won’t touch. I am curious if it’s something totally unpalatable to them. Hopefully the county extension can shed light on that!

Also, again (repeating myself) unless you’re watching them 24/7, how do you know they aren’t eating the pasture grass?
3ac for 2 horses is a relatively BIG field. Do you expect then to graze it down to drylot?
My 3 on my ~1/4ac small field are out on it from 4P until 7A the next morning & it still has grass. Not lush or tall, but grass.
And when I take one out of the pasture, they too dive for what grows outside like it’s Manna from Heaven :roll_eyes:

County extension should be able to help, though I’ve found them to be hit or miss.

Want to post pictures here? Google Lens is also FANTASTIC at IDing grasses and weeds. Get a whole handful of the stuff, from the roots, to get a picture.

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Remove the hay and don’t cave haha.

If you dig up clumps of grass and take it to your local country extension office they will ID the grass for you, it’s usually free or very cheap (I paid $20 for ID on 6 grass samples)


Do you mow the pastures? Tall, older growth is not attractive to horses because it is tougher than new growth. 3 acres is a sizable field for 2 horses, you may not see where they are grazing because it is so spread out. Mowing regularly helps keep new (preferred) growth all at a similar height. Regular is when grass gets about 8 inches high, mowed to 5 inches so roots are not getting sunburned, leaf loss is not a shock to the plant, and dirt is protected from heavy rain. Regular is not timed by days, just grass height.

Did you do a soil test? You need to fertilize by what the grass needs, not using generic fertilizer mixes sold at the store.

Wondering if your horses are older? Many get quite lazy, don’t want to walk out to graze. They will stay up close to eat the hay.

You did not specify your Midwest location, but I quit mowing pastures around Labor Day, so grass can get some length before it normally gets really cold here in Michigan. This year is plain ODD, from spring to now! Dry or wet at funny times of the season. No sun, cold that is not “normal timing”. Grass has still done quite well here, still growing productively until 2 weeks ago. We started putting out some hay then, but it is not much because they are not cleaning it up. Hay at night in stalls is cleaned up. Still not a great amount yet.

I would greatly reduce hay fed outside, see if they will turn to grazing. Horses are unlikely to “starve” themselves when grass is available to them. Have you walked the field, to see grazing areas or lush growth spots, see the types of plants in them? I see the variety of growth when i mow or walk checkling fences. Some places growth is too short to graze, jus has green color. My husband thinks our pastures NOW should keep the horses fed! No, it just LOOKS green, not much height except in the potty areas. They need some hay, not a lot, but some.

A soil test should help you with minerals needed to grow good grass. You want to avoid Urea in your fertilizer, it can cause lameness, especially when heavily applied. Check Urea Poisoning on Google. I use Ammonium Sulphate instead as my Nitrogen source, because it has no such side effects. Price runs about the same.

You want to check any Clover you seed. Red and white flower Clovers can cause horse problems, especially in warmed climates. All turn up in common “pasture mixes” because cattle, sheep, have no issues with them. I have turned into a “very picky person” about reading seed labels. Amazing how often there is seed you don’t want in a bag! We have volunteer Clover that just appears in the pastures, and I am seriously trying to kill it in the hayfield… Not always sure of the kind because pasture mowing helps prevent the slobbers and we have very little white on our horses to get the photo sensitivity problem. That is a very time consuming issue to deal with!


How’s the soil- is it so loose that the roots rip up with the grass? That really discourages some horses.

Your theory that they ate all the seeded stuff and are left with some sort of unpalatable native or invasive species is definitely plausible.

Do they eat it better when it’s mowed short? Some species get too ligneous to eat once they mature, even if they haven’t grown all that tall.