Horses thrive when they are pastured on thick, healthy stands of appropriate forage. A well-planned and maintained pasture can be your horse’s primary food source but a poorly planned pasture may not provide sufficient nutrition for robust health. To improve your horse’s condition and increase forage yield, pastures need to be renovated periodically. This involves testing and improving the soil, managing weeds and undesirable plants and renewing pastures by introducing a variety of forage species.
Summer and Fall
Test your soil if you haven’t had a soil test within two to three years. Your local agricultural extension agent can perform this test and help you understand the results.
Control weeds by tilling the area or through the application of an appropriate herbicide. Your choice will depend upon the type and volume of undesirable plant life in your pasture.
In the fall, overgraze the pasture--let your horses to do some of the work. Overgrazing exposes more soil surface for new seeds and allows better contact.
Fill in any low spots or holes and stabilize any areas that appear to be eroding.
Fertilize as recommended by your soil test. Fall is the best time to fertilize cool season grasses because there is less weed competition and the grasses are not growing above ground. Fertilizers penetrate deeper into the roots.
Late Winter: Frost Seeding
Purchase the proper mix for your region. Legumes such as red clover and birdsfoot trefoil work well, but your choice will depend upon your specific soil conditions, climate and drainage.
Broadcast the seeds when the ground is still frozen. Late winter is best because the daytime temperatures are slightly above freezing but the nights are below freezing. The cycle of freezing and thawing opens the soil structure and allows the seeds to make good contact with the ground.
Control weed populations during the first three months of growth as the grasses establish.
Do not allow your horses to graze in the field for one year. During that time, the pasture can be cut for hay. If you cannot let the field go unused for a full year, consider overseeding in sections.