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Old 05-17-2009, 12:30 PM  
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How much grass should a horse have daily?

Ok, in the winter my horses get about 10-15# of medium quality grass hay per day, plus 1# of ration balancer. They got really fat, but I wasn't going to give them less than 1% of their body weight in roughage. I've been putting them out on grass twice day (for a total of about 5 hours/day) with no hay now that the grass is in. They have lost some weight from the winter, but are still overweight. I can't put grazing muzzles on them (the breakaway halters gets broken away in a day or two and we have too many things in our pasture -- dead trees, rose bushes, blackberry canes, etc) for a regular halter to get caught on to be safe). So, I put them out and bring them in instead.

I'd like to turn them out a couple times per day, but am wondering how long they should be out? How long should a horse be on grass so they can get the roughage they need? I pen them in all night long, no hay, since one has an allergic reaction to midges. I'd like to put them out a couple hours before noon and then a couple after noon, closer to the time we pen them up. The problem is, they've been out about five hours per day and are not losing weight very quickly.

I've talked to several horse friends and they say "let the horse decide; if they are getting too fat, cut the time". But if I followed that rule in the winter with their hay, they'd only get about 5# per day! I know too little roughage can cause big problems too. I talked to one person who suggested 4-5 hours per day was WAY too long for them to be out.

I've researched feeding horses and attended seminars, but this question has never really been addressed in anything that I have found... would an hour in the morning and another hour in the afternoon be enough for them to get the roughage they need?

I realize this depends on the horse and the pasture...
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Old 05-17-2009, 12:59 PM  
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the problem is they NEED the forage to keep their digestive system working .. I don't think there is a magic number ...
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Old 05-17-2009, 01:07 PM  
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I think it depends also on the quality of your pastures, how many horses you have on how many acres. All things considered, if you put your horse in at night, then I think they should be able to be out on pasture all day without problems. However, in early spring, they should be out for a little bit, then taken off pasture until they get used to the grass. Where I board, they put them out 24/7 and mine has to have a grazing muzzle because he gets too fat. Basically, if your horses look thin-more grazing time, if they look fat-cut back on the grazing time.
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Old 05-17-2009, 01:09 PM  
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It is also my belief that a horse should have free choice hay or grass, so if you limit their pasture time to 1 or 2 hours, then you'd have to feed hay.
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Old 05-17-2009, 03:06 PM  
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I think it depends also on the quality of your pastures, how many horses you have on how many acres. All things considered, if you put your horse in at night, then I think they should be able to be out on pasture all day without problems.
If I left them out all day right now they would explode!

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However, in early spring, they should be out for a little bit, then taken off pasture until they get used to the grass.
In the early spring, they are dry lotted until the grass comes in and the worst of the rain stops (otherwise, they tear up the pasture). Then they go out for 15 minutes once day for about a week, then a half hour, and so on until they are up to three hours. We keep them at three hours until the spring rains are over and then they usually go out all day. When the pasture is getting drier and the grass is not so lush, we leave them out 24/7.

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Basically, if your horses look thin-more grazing time, if they look fat-cut back on the grazing time.
This is what I have always believed as well, but I'm serious -- if I follow that rule with these easy keepers, they would get very little hay or grass. They got at least 100# overweight on medium quality grass hay at 10# each per day (they are 1000# horses). We weigh everything we feed and get our hay tested.

The woman I bought my mare from saw her and told me to limit her pasture to an hour or two per day -- and not to supplement with hay. It just seems like that's not enough roughage...
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Old 05-17-2009, 03:11 PM  
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Maybe this will be helpful FT?


Grazing Strategies for Horse Pastures
Warm weather and green grass gets us itching to turn-out! However, improper grazing can turn you’re knee high grass lot into a dust bowl over run with weeds. Take the time to plan a grazing system for your property. Maintaining the grass population will not only be aesthetically pleasing, it will be a sustainable pasture that can provide nutrition and exercise areas for your horse and will ensure the value of your property remains high.
A horse will utilize about 3% of its body weight per day of pasture forage by eating, trampling or otherwise damaging. An average horse of 1,000 lbs will utilize 30 lbs of pasture forage per day. Can your pasture grow enough mass to support your horse or horses? How long can you graze your pasture? These questions can be answered with a few calculations.
Available Forage
Determine how much forage your pasture produces by performing clippings. Choose a location in your pasture that would represent the average production of the entire pasture. Clip an area about 30 inches in diameter to ground level. Keep only the actual forage; discard litter, roots, weeds and soil. Place the sample into a brown paper bag and let air dry for 2-4 days. Once dry (forage should look like hay), weigh the sample (be sure to subtract the weight of the bag). You can repeat the sampling over several locations in the pasture and calculate an average weight. Multiply the average sample weight by 20. This measurement is the total pounds of forage per one acre pasture. Next, multiply the total pound of forage per acre by the total number of acres in your pasture. Keep in mind that not all of the forage is available for grazing. Horses will otherwise damage forage by trampling, defecating, ect. If you have dryland pasture, multiply the total amount of forage by 0.25, irrigated multiply by 0.35.
Take into consideration the productivity of you pasture will change over the course of the season. Your samples may not be representative of the pasture in late summer if they were taken in early spring. Adjust your grazing strategies accordingly.
Number of Horses OR Duration of Grazing
Knowing the available forage and using the “rule of thumb” that horses will utilize about 30 lbs/d can help you determine the carrying capacity (number of horses your pasture can support) and also the number of days (or hours) your horse will be able to graze. Thus, grazing systems can be tailored to your available resources.
Number of Horses Pasture can Support
Amount of forage (lbs/d) available for grazing ÷ Length of time (days) horses will graze
30 lbs forage per horse
Length of time horse can graze (days)
Amount of forage (lbs/d) available for grazing
( 30 lbs/horse X Number of horses)
To calculate the number of hours a horse can graze, convert your days to hours and replace this figure for amount of forage (lbs/d). Horses will graze for 9-14 hours a day. Therefore, an average 1000 lb horse will eat roughly 2.5 to 3.5 lbs of forage per hour. (30lbs / 9hrs=3.5 lbs/hr and 30lbs / 14hrs=2.5 lbs/hr).
Grazing Systems for Horses
Grazing systems or strategies are very important tools that will ensure the health of your grass. The smallest of acreages can benefit from implementing a system and managing grazing frequency, duration and intensity. There is a tendency for horse pastures to become overgrazed. Horses have the ability to be very selective in the plants they choose to eat. As a result, horses often eat the same plant population over and over again, weakening the plant root structure and severely limiting its ability to recover or cause death of the plant. This often opens the pasture up of weed invasion and erosion. Grazing should occur when plants have reached a height of 6-8 inches and should cease when plants have been grazed to 3-4 inches in height.
Continuous Grazing
Horses have unlimited access to pasture of the course of the grazing season. This strategy is not recommended for horses in small pastures. Again, this goes back the horse’s ability to selectively graze their favorite plant population.
Partial-season Grazing
Horses graze a pasture for a limited time during a certain period of the grazing season. Spring grazing takes advantage of new growth. Fall grazing will take advantage of stockpiled forages (forages that have grown tall and not been
previously grazed). This strategy reduces the risk of overgrazing. The time of season the pasture is grazed will affect its carrying capacity and nutritional value.
Limited Turnout Time
Horses graze the pasture for short periods of time (1/2 hr to 12 hrs) each day. Dry lot or stalls are utilized when grazing is not allowed. This strategy can greatly increase how long forage is available over the course of the grazing season and decrease the amount of hay that would need to be fed if horses were continuously in drylot. For example, if a horse grazes spring pasture for 1 hour, the amount of grass hay provided could be decreased by 2.75 lbs. Likewise, if a horse grazes summer pasture for 1 hour, the amount of grass hay provided could be decreased by 1.75 lbs. This system is very flexible and is highly recommended for properties owners with limited amount of pasture.
Rotational Grazing
Horses are moved or rotated from one pasture to another over the course of the grazing season. It is often beneficial to divide large pastures into smaller pastures to maximize grazing efficiency. For example, a 9 acre pasture is divided into 3, 3 acre pastures often referred to as cells. Horses are turned out into the first cell, allowed to graze until forage is 3-4 inches tall and then rotated to the next cell. Rotation into the third pasture will occur when growth in the 2nd cell is 3-4 inches in height. Horses can be returned to any one of the cells if re-growth is sufficient for grazing (6-8 inches in height). This grazing system can be used in conjunction with limited turnout time.
Proper grazing can benefit your horse and your pasture. Graze plants to the proper height and allow the plant time to recover and re-grow before grazing again. Limit selective grazing of the horse by confining horses to small pastures or cells. The most important thing to remember is not to graze by the calendar, graze according to your plant health. Finally, if your pasture can not support the number of horses you already have, make arrangements to dry lot the horses, don’t sacrifice your pasture, your horse health and the value of your property.
Barbi Riggs
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Old 05-17-2009, 03:33 PM  
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I was always of the 'philosophy' that horses should eat 1-2% of their body weight per day (roughly a 1000 lbs for Red) and, ideally in roughage.
I find it harder to determine the proper amounts when I go back to feeding more grain in the winter.
Plus, I look at the horse, check the neck for tightness and fat, the back for a crease, 'hint' of ribs, and fat deposits at the top of the tail.
It's NEVER been an easy call with an 'easy keep' horse.
I also check the temperature of his feet, almost daily, to see if they are getting too warm.
Not an 'exact science', more of a 'best guess' scenario with Red.

Last edited by redboy : 05-17-2009 at 06:29 PM.
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Old 05-17-2009, 03:40 PM  
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This time of year my quarter mare gets 1hr in the AM, and 3-4hrs in the evening. The pony gets 1/2hr in the am and 1/2hr in the PM. If she looks like she is getting too fat she gets just the AM grass time. They have always done well this way.
But that being said my dry lot is large and always has a fair amount of very short grass on it.
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Old 05-17-2009, 03:43 PM  
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redboy: you have a 10,000 pound horse???

I am little help in this situation, having one of those Tbs that loses weight by breathing. Possibly you could call a vet and have a chat with him/her?
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Old 05-17-2009, 06:17 PM  
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Seer,

That information will be very helpful! I knew grass was different from hay (regarding the amount in pounds a horse should have) but didn't know what that number was. 30# of grass sounds about right. Good article... thanks!

Redboy, your horse needs to go on a diet if he weighs 10,000#... or you need to call Guiness.
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Old 05-17-2009, 06:27 PM  
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redboy: you have a 10,000 pound horse???

I am little help in this situation, having one of those Tbs that loses weight by breathing. Possibly you could call a vet and have a chat with him/her?

Ahh, Opps!!
I mean 1-2% of his body weight!!
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Old 05-17-2009, 06:28 PM  
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Seer,


Redboy, your horse needs to go on a diet if he weighs 10,000#... or you need to call Guiness.

Opps!!!
Well he does tend to over eat at times!!
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Old 05-17-2009, 06:30 PM  
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Opps!!!
Well he does tend to over eat at times!!
Ok, NOW we need pictures....
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