Workshop Dates

Managing Properties and Feeding Programs

presented by WA Horse Council and Perth Natural Resource Management

Click here for flyer with further information

February

Sunday 14th 2016

Brookleigh

March

Sunday 20th 2016

Serpentine

April

Sunday 3rd 2016

Henley Brook

Pasture Management

 

Pasture Selection

If you are planning to reseed your pasture, carefully consider which pasture species you intend to plant.  The majority of modern pasture species that are recommended by your farm/agricultural reseller are fantastic for grazing cattle and sheep, but are high risk for laminitis in horses.

Pastures species that I will be planting in my own paddocks are:

Rhodes grass (Chloris gayana), Wallaby grass (Austrodanthonia species) and Weeping Rice grass (Microlaene stipodes). 

The advantage of using these species is that these grasses are generally low in non structural carbohydrates and don't tend to store their sugars in the form of fructan.  Fructan is now considered the sugar component most likely to contribute to laminitis in horses. 

Rhodes grass is also one of the safest grasses for horses as it has very low oxalate levels.  Oxalates bind up calcium in the horses diet making it unavailable for absorption. 

Wallaby grass and weeping rice grass are native to australia and hence well adapted to our low fertility soils.  Wallaby grass is drought tolerant, whilst Weeping rice grass is tolerant of shady areas and damp soils.

However the disadvantage of using these species is that they require more grazing management.  These species will not survive if horses are grazed on the paddocks 24/7.  They require rotational grazing to allow them time to recover from grazing and to persist in the pasture.

 

 

Property Design

The easiest way to create "go anywhere" hooves is to set up your property and paddocks to both encourage your horse to move and to condition their feet to any terrain you may encounter when riding out.  This way, once the property is set up, the horse will do the rest with minimal input from you!

Encouraging movement

The easiest way to stop your horse from moving is to put them in a square paddock, stable or yard on their own.  They will tend to hang out in the corner closest to their mate or neighbour, idly lazing the day away.  To create movement we need two things, company and a large paddock or track to promote movement.

Horses are happier in company.  They are a herd animal and hence feel safer in a group.  Having a mate in the paddock allows them to groom each other and play, preventing a number of bad behaviours.

One of the simplest ways to encourage movement is to put your water trough at one end of the paddock and their feed at the other.  If feeding hay, having a number of feeding points around the paddock will create movement as the horse wanders from pile to pile to eat.  Pecking order disputes will also generate movement.

Creating a track around the paddock is another way to keep horses moving.  More information on this system can be found in the book "Paddock Paradise" by Jaime Jackson.

Conditioning hooves

A horse that only ever lives on grass will only ever be comfortable walking on grass or soft surfaces.  Think what you were like as a child.  If you spent all day, every day running around in bare feet, then you would have feet as tough as leather.  But today, if you were to try and walk across your backyard or paddock bare foot, you would be tip toeing and walking very gingerly, as your feet are simply not conditioned to those surfaces.  Your horse is no different.  Unless they spend their time living on rough surfaces, they won't be conditioned to moving on them.  If you don't want to resort to using hoof boots, then you need to have rough, gravelled or rocky areas in your paddocks to condition your horses feet to travelling on those surfaces.

One of the simplest ways to do this is to put gravel or rocks around water troughs, gateways and feeding areas.  This will stabilize the soil in these high traffic areas and also help to toughen your horses feet.  If you have created a track system, then at different intervals along the track you can add gravel, rocks or other abrasive surfaces.

Protecting your pastures

The majority of pasture species will not tolerate constant grazing.  Under these conditions they usually die only to be replaced by weeds.  Rotational grazing is the best way to manage your pastures to prevent this from occurring.  By using a track system to keep your horses off the paddocks when they need resting, you can not only protect your paddocks, but also control your horses grass intake, whilst encouraging movement.