7 Things to Look for in Your Horse’s Pastures and Paddocks
Why You Need to Inspect and Walk Your Horse’s Paddocks!
- Ah, the paddock. Paddocks and pastures are lovely places for our horses to just be horses. Hanging out with their horse friends, munching grass or lolly-gagging around the hay net or gate.
- Considering how much time our horses spend out in the paddock, it’s super important to make sure his space is safe. And yes, it involves much walking and shoveling and inspecting.
What you can find on a pasture inspection:
Holes are dangerous for horses!
- Really dangerous for horses. Leg snapping dangerous. When a horse can see them, most horses will choose to go over or around a hole. But – what about the holes that can’t be spotted? Or the shallow ground over a tunnel between two holes? Ground creatures need to be contained (more on that here in this amazing article) so that your pastures stay healthy, the ground is safe, and no one snaps anything.
So cute! But I will end you if you decide to live in my horse’s pasture.
- So yeah, this means you are walking every inch of your horse’s paddocks. You will also need to keep your pastures mowed so that you and your horses can spot dangers. Regular mowing also helps to keep weeds away.
- Sure, the weather is warm during the day, but any puddle of water can freeze overnight and create a dangerous ice patch in a paddock. Some farms have KWA (known wet areas) where water naturally pools after rain or snow. KWA’s are also places where groundwater might bubble up, or drainage from downspouts collects.
- At any rate – KWA’s often take longer to thaw than the surrounding ground, and no one wants to slip and slide during turnout. Get in your pastures, know where the KWA’s are, and block them off if you need to. Or make some drainage tracks. Or switch turnouts. Just don’t let your horse out into an icy paddock.
Random skeletons can also appear in your horse’s pastures.
- I never would have guessed this to be an issue until I discovered that they happen. More often than you think. I’ve even seen a whole fish dropped into the pasture from a bird passing overhead. I’ve found entire carcasses of smaller animals and random pieces of larger ones. Predators often break up their meals and drop pieces along the way.
- Why is this such a bad thing? Well – dead animals rotting in fields can create a patch of botulism that can literally kill your horse in a few days or less. Botulism is often associated with creatures that have been part of the haymaking process. It can also happen with some critter whose gravesite is now in your horse’s paddock.
- One more thought – random bones that have been run over by a tractor or mower, or even stomped on by your horse, create RAZOR sharp edges. The absolute last thing that you need is some jerk of a bone puncturing your horse’s hoof (VERY BAD) or slicing him up during a roll (ALSO BAD).
This deer bone was sliced into a medieval weapon by a mowing blade.
- Get in your pastures and walk around! Especially if you see some scavengers or vultures lurking about.
Fencing can be a hazard to your horse.
- Of course, you need to walk your paddocks to inspect the fencing! Broken boards, which delightful for your horse to scratch on, can impale him. Downed fencing also creates an equine escape route. Boards that have popped often create nails that pop off, leading to hoof hazards and butt scratching hazards.
This board can end up like a giant horse butt splinter.
- I generally prefer that horses have solid wood fencing along with electric fencing, so that they don’t tangle with the fence at all. Do check on your electric fencing regularly so you know it’s pumping a shock through there. It’s not cruel, it’s safe, and if might just save you some fence repair and vet bills along the way.
Random metal things love to pop out of pastures.
- Believe it or now, the earth is full of little treasures. Metal treasures that come up after rain, disruption, or the earth just does it’s thing and spits them up. Some metal treasures come from broken fencing, lost horseshoes, and previous repairs.
- Strange as it sounds, the best thing you can do is regularly walk your paddocks with a giant roofing magnet. These bad boys have wheels, are about 3 feet wide, and can pick up all sorts of metal bits from your horse’s turnout areas. You will be mesmerized and horrified the first time you do this.
I collected this from one paddock, one spring. YIKES YIKES YIKES
- It’s important to check for random metal things so that your horse doesn’t end up with street nail. These hoof impalement injuries rarely have a good outcome, resulting in euthanasia. A street nail can create deep pockets of infection and damage, along with extreme pain. The infection is hard to treat, and the pain causes your horse to shift his weight to the other limbs. When this happens, supporting limb laminitis is often the culprit of your horse’s demise. Do spend the time to sweep your horse’s areas for metal bits and pieces. Maybe you’ll find something historical or valuable!
Damn weeds. Damn, damn weeds.
- Generally speaking, most horses will leave most weeds alone. Dandelions are tasty and full of sugar, which makes them gobbled up by horses quickly. Buttercups are toxic and bitter, but some horses will eat them. There are dozens and dozens of other types of weeds that horses may, or may not eat.
- The big problem with weeds is that they can take over. Use goats to clear them out, mow your pastures frequently, and work with your local ag extension service to determine the best weed management for your farm. You also want to rotate your pastures often, so that your horses don’t eat all of the grass down, leaving lots of room and sun for the weeds to take over.
Manure is the bane of any pasture’s existence.
- This is going to sound ridiculous, but I’m going to say it anyway. Your pastures need to be cleared of manure. Manure is the glue that holds the parasite life cycle together. This is a challenging chore, but can be made easier with a paster vacuum.
- Yes, a pasture vacuum. They exist.
- Manure also creates areas of pasture that your horse won’t eat (usually). So you might end up with areas of poop on top of longer grass, and patches of eaten down spots. Scooping the paddocks lets the grass be eaten down evenly. In theory, anyway.
- I scoop my horse’s pasture every other day, and that keeps me from getting too far behind. His paddocks are small, so it’s relatively easy. If you see rain in the forecast, get out there and scoop everything. Rain loves to spread the parasite eggs around.
- Many farms will drag a pasture to sort of “work in” the manure piles. Dragging the fields without scooping them first is a great way to spread any parasite eggs around. BUT – if your entire farm is on a coordinated parasite control system, you may be ok. Using fecal egg counts and targeted deworming with your Vet’s help can keep everyone healthy. If your farm has a medium or high shedding horse, those pastures should be scooped and not dragged.
We all know that most horses live to get hurt. Walking and inspecting your horse’s paddocks and pastures can help you eliminate some big hazards!
If you want to pick up one of those handy magnetic sweepers and get to treasure hunting, here’s a quick link for you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases, and there is no extra charge to you! I greatly appreciate your support.