The advantages of keeping a horse or pony at grass is that it is natural, promotes socialization, which can ward off behavioural problems and the costs of keep are less.
A shelter must be available if your horse is to stay out for long periods of time, especially during the winter months when they need protection from the wind and rain. In the summer, they may need shade from the sun at the hottest time of the day. Such cover need not necessarily be man-made since dense tree and hedge growth is very effective.
During dry summers and when the growing season stops as it gets cold, hay may be needed to supplement the diet.
Fresh water must be provided at all times. A horse’s daily water requirements can vary from 20 to 70 litres. Put feed and water buckets in a convenient place, near gates, so to make it easier to check on a daily basis. In the winter months, any covering of ice will need to be broken, often a few times each day.
Horses and ponies will trample down a pasture in no time, especially in wet conditions and even more so when paddocks are over crowded. The grass also becomes heavily choked with droppings. In these situations, paddocks must be managed in a systematic fashion. Droppings must be picked up often; at least every other day. This is important in controlling the worm egg and fly population in the warmer months. Periodic harrowing of large or numerous paddocks may be more practical than trying to pick up droppings by hand since the spreading of matter across the field will allow the sun’s natural inactivation of parasite eggs.
Cordoning off an area of the paddock to keep free from grazing will help the grass to recover. Then when the grass has grown back it can be opened up and another area can be cordoned off. If numerous paddocks are available, rotate their use. All fencing should be in good working order and safe. Post and rail is considered the most acceptable form of fencing as it less likely to cause serious injury to a horse that comes in contact with it. Electric fencing can be used in combination with fences or hedges to make the paddock more secure. Barbed wire should NEVER be used as it can cause serious puncture and ‘cheese wire’ injuries to joints and tendons. These injuries can easily lead to the end of a horse’s career.
That it is suitable for the situation
Maintain a good overall condition
The fence is secure to keep horses in and undesirables out
No barbed wire present or other potential hazards such as sharp edges
horses are prevented from contact if necessary
gates are hung at the correct height and in appropriate places
checked to ensure it is clean and suitable for your horse to drink
troughs should be regularly cleaned out
sufficient quantities for your horse (especially important in the summer)
If the source is a stream that there is sufficient depth to reduce sand intake (can cause sand colic)
The field itself
The quality and quantity of pasture produced is adequate for your horse
Topping can help to improve the quality of the pasture
The pasture is free from poisonous weeds e.g. ragwort
There are no items in the field that may injure e.g. sticks and stones
There is adequate shelter and shade
There are adequate dry areas for your horse to stand to reduce the risk of mud fever
Dung is removed regularly or harrowed to prevent a build up of the worm burden.
Your veterinary surgeon will be able to offer further advice and answer any questions you may have regarding field maintenance.