What to do about holes in your horse’s pasture!

 

No one wants a vet bill, especially one that came from your horse stepping into a hole. Pastures, those romantic and dreamy places for horses to lounge and eat and “be a horse” are often rife with problems, including holes.

 

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What causes a hole in your horse’s pasture?

 

  • It could be a creature, like a groundhog or prairie dog. Depending on where you live, you can find gophers, voles and moles, groundhogs, prairie dogs, badgers, marmots, commonly known as rock chucks, and even mice and rats.

 

  • Your pasture’s mystery hole could be a sinkhole, and I’ll use that term loosely. Most sinkholes in the strictest of definitions are created when the underlying bedrock gives way, and the top layers of earth fall in. Smaller sinkholes happen when tunnels (blasted rodents!) or underground water or any other shift underground causes the top layers of soil and/or grass to fall into a crater. It may, or may not, be creature-related in a horse’s pasture.

 

  • Holes could also be the result of your horse digging in some sort of weird equine archaeological way.

 

  • You might also have a pasture that has remnants of a fence long since removed. In this case, you might be able to figure out where the old fence line was in order to fill those post holes.

 

prairie dog in a pasture hole

I see your cute face but I want your cute face GONE.

 

What can you do about holes in your horse’s pasture?

 

  • Let’s just assume that your pasture is home to some sort of burrowing creature. You will need to figure out what type of creature you have, and then what you can do about it. There are a lot of eradication options out there, some work better than others for particular types of rodent.

 

 

  • Then you can do some research and determine how the offending and hole-making beast lives. Some creatures have a tunnel system with lots of entrances and exits, some do not. You need to know this to properly rid your property of the hole maker.

 

What do you do about the critters?

 

  • I’m a fan of not being personally involved in anything that might end in animal death, but I value my horse’s life too much. That being said, I’m going to a pest control service that specializes in pasture and farm pest control.

 

  • You can employ certain methods of hole control yourself, but some of them are super risky and might poison you, your horse, or any dog or cat you have on the farm. Baits, traps, gas, poisons, explosives, and even guns are all methods that can be used. Each with its own set of risks and legalities.

 

  • Some of the methods might also be forbidden by law, or within a certain distance from a water source.

 

  • If it’s not creatures digging up your pastures, you may want to opt for some soil testing to find out what’s really below the surface. You may also need to plow everything under.

 

pasture hole with a stick

Not a tree per se, but a big branch marks a hole along a trail.

 

What to do with your pasture that has holes?

 

  • If you are actively removing creatures and animals from a pasture, you need to rake or harrow the holes so that new activity from the remaining rodents is easy to see. This means a lot of walking from hole to hole to hole and a lot of raking. Marking holes with flags is an option, too, to keep track of older vs. newer holes.

 

  • Rotating crops is a great way to discourage pests from setting up residence in your fields. The harrowing under of last year’s crop takes care of much of the population and forces them out to find new homes. Not so convenient if your crop is horse pasture, but it’s an option if you need to go scorched earth on those little buttheads living underground.

 

  • Once you are sure a pasture is free from holes creating creatures, fill them in. And keep tabs on the former holes, they can easily be renovated back to a hole by a death-defying pest. You might be able to fill the holes in by hand, or you might need to harrow under the hole and pack the entire area.

 

  • I often ride a particular trail that has several holes, and we just stick large branches into them so we know where to avoid stepping.

 

hidden pasture hole

This hole is hard to see, even after a mow. You must walk all of the property!

 

Make your horse’s pasture bad for creatures:

 

  • Keep things mowed! You won’t be able to find said burrows if you can’t even see them. The first sign of a hole is when to start planning the demise of your pasture pest. A shorter pasture also gives your horse a chance to see a potential issue.

 

  • Keep things busy. No rodent in their right mind is going to set up shop with barn dogs running around and horses continually in the pastures. Dormant or ignored pastures might be best as dry lots?

 

  • Find a way to attract natural predators. Birds of prey are lovely to watch, and can drive rodent populations away. Set up owl boxes, make tall structures and poles attractive for hawk and eagle nests. Hawks and other predatory birds often feed on smaller birds – so lots of bird feeders can attract the larger birds.

 

  • You can also buy realistic-looking fake birds to pop around your property. Owls are a popular fake bird option, and can usually be found next to the garden gnomes at your local big box store.

In a nutshell, know thine hole-making enemy!

 

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Thank you!