Horse Paddocks; Management/ Re-seeding
A common problem at this time of year is when Horse Paddocks have been trashed over winter. Heavy ground, a lot of rain, cold weather and grazing have all combined to leave the field looking more like mud than grass.
If this is the problem, you face then you may need to renovate the pasture with seed this spring.
There are two key areas to consider before buying the seeds.
You need to consider the timing of planting Horse Paddocks this is generally between Mid March and Mid May. But as importantly the timing of when you put your horses back on to the field.
Ideally if you are renovating a field, adding more seed to existing grass, then you need to keep the horses off for at least one season. The best solution would be to sow in the Spring and put the horses back on in the Autumn. If the horses, go on to soon they may damage the new young grass and you could be back where you started. We appreciate that often horse owners only have small areas to manage. It is always the case that if you are going to reseed you either need to do one field at a time or split the field so that the new grass is protected.
The easiest way to renovate an existing pasture would be as follows.
- · Cut the existing grass short;
- · Harrow the ground hard;
- · Broadcast the seed;
- · Roll it afterwards.
To do this efficiently you will need a reasonable amount of machinery. Whilst it can be done by hand, you would probably need to budget on sowing a lot more seed than if it is done mechanically The risk is that if the cultivations are not done properly you may find you’ve wasted your time and the cost of the seed.
So plan when you are going to sow it.
Plan so that you can keep the horses off the field for long enough.
Make sure that you have the necessary equipment.
CAUSES OF THE PROBLEM
It may be the case that whatever you do to your land it might need reseeding regularly. But it is worth checking or thinking through a few things when considering reseeding to see if you can stop it happening all over again.
Many horse owners have land that is worth £1,000 of pounds but have never done a soil test. Whatever seed mixture you sow it will not compensate for poor soil. Testing can be done for less than £60.00 and the results could save you a lot of money over the next few years. We do not offer a soil testing service ourselves but have set out the benefits and give some links to companies who do in the following link. Soil Testing.
Grass seed grows best on alkaline soils. These are predominately chalk/limestone soil types. Here the conditions will be light and the drainage good. Many horse paddocks though are on heavy clay soils and drainage can be a problem. If heavy soils and poor drainage is an issue, then not resolving it will give new grass ley's little chance. The British Grassland Society and Shirley MacMillan have put together some excellent notes on this subject at
It may well be that you have an existing field that has become over run with weeds such as buttercup and clover. If you do not have a strategy to control these weeds, then it may jeopardise any new sowing. Weeds can be controlled in three main ways.
- · By regular mowing and sowing more grass.
- · By hand pulling the weeds.
- · By agrochemical control.
The BHS have produced an excellent article on pasture management including one part on weed control at
If you need to go down the agro chemical route it is important that you get professional advice first.
- Check the soil
- Check the drainage
- Sort out any weeds.
THE EASY PART
Having done all of the above you simply have to decide the right mixture to sow for you Horse Paddocks!
The first question you have to ask is, is it all for grazing or do you need to take a crop of hay from it as well. If grazing is important then you need a wide range of long lasting species to give a long season of grazing. You would benefit from mixed herbs in the mix which can improve the soil structure and benefit your horses diet.
If you want a hay crop, then you need a narrow range of species. Ones with a similar heading date. They will likely to be high yielding, short term varieties.
Whilst you can take a hay crop from any grass field, you need to accept that a field that is good for grazing will not produce the highest yielding best quality hay crop. In an ideal world you would keep a small area available for hay production and sow an appropriate mix. Then keep the rest of the field for grazing on a rotation.
If we concentrate, then on the mixes for horse grazing these fall into two types. Those with Perennial ryegrass and those without.
Ryegrass Free mixtures
Over the last few years’ concerns have grown up about ryegrass and horses.
These have largely been about two issues. One is that the ryegrass varieties have been developed which are high yielding for cattle and it is thought that this high yield may not always be healthy for some horses. Secondly it is suggested that there may be a link between high levels of sugar in the ryegrass based mixtures and increased risks of laminitis. Because of these reasons many horse owners have started to switch to non-ryegrass based mixtures which are generally called natural ranges.
We have a well-established ryegrass free renovation seed mix. We have been supplying it for over 10 years. Follow the link for more details.
Ryegrass based mixtures.
For many years in Horse Paddocks there have been and continue to be sown ryegrass based mixtures and horses successfully graze on them. Ryegrass is such a part of our natural habitat that it will always be growing in most fields even if you did not sow any.
We have a well-established Traditional Renovation seed mix which again we have been supplying for over 10 years. Follow the link for more details.
- · Plan the timing and the cultivations
- · Check your soil and drainage, sort out any weeds.
- · Decide if you want hay production or grazing.
- · Decide if you want to go down the ryegrass or non-ryegrass route.
If you require any more information please contact Tim Evans on 0800 085 4399 or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org