Equine Pasture BMPs.

Equine Pasture Best Management Practices.

What are Best Management Practices?

Best Management Practices (BMPs) for an equine pasture are cost-effective and practicable management actions for protecting and improving water quality and conserving water. They are developed through research, field testing, and expert review.            

Equine Pasture Management

Equine pasture management can decrease feeding expenses, help maintain healthy horses, and minimize environmental impacts. Pastures that are overstocked and overgrazed tend to result in bare ground, soil compaction, and weed infestations. Bare spots or denuded areas can quickly be churned to dust and mud, causing health risks such as respiratory disease, sand colic, and thrush. Good pasture management may involve adjusting stocking rates, utilizing rotation and rest periods, confining horses to sacrifice areas or stalls during periods of drought or extreme wet conditions, managing manure, maintaining soil fertility, and mowing the pasture to even out under-grazed areas and control weed populations.

Horse eating habits

             Horses are instinctively selective grazers, basing their forage choice on palatability and availability.  Generally, young forage is more digestible and palatable than older forage. The horses start to “spot graze” and will graze some areas of pastures down to bare ground. Intensive, repeated grazing of areas with short, new growth causes the plants to become unhealthy and die. Weeds invade pastures as the desirable forage species are grazed and trampled.

Good Grazing Plan

Having a good grazing plan will help in good pasture management. There are several options for grazing plans. Some grazing strategies are better at maintaining pasture ground cover and reducing the risk of overgrazing than others. Continuous (season-long) grazing, partial-season grazing, limited turnout time, and rotational grazing are grazing strategies commonly used.

  • Continuous grazing is when horses have unlimited access to pastures, and while this is the least labor-intensive method, it unfortunately often results in overgrazing, particularly on smaller acreages.
  • Partial season grazing refers to restricting grazing to only part of the year and removing horses from the pasture for the rest of the year.
  • Limited turnout time allows horses daily access to pasture for shorter periods (1/2-hour to 12 hours per day) and supplemented with hay for the rest of the day. Horses managed on small properties, particularly operations that house more horses than their pastures can support with more extended grazing periods, would find this plan ideal.
  • Rotational grazing is dividing a pasture into smaller “cells” and rotating the use of each cell. Even small (1-2 acre) pastures can be effectively set up as a rotational system. This method encourages horses to eat plants that may be overlooked under a continuous grazing plan. Horses are allowed access to one cell at a time. When forage has been grazed down to 3-4 inches, horses can be rotated to the next cell. The previously grazed cell is then allowed to rest and recover.


For more information about BMPs for pasture management, click here.






Posted: March 25, 2024

Category: Agriculture, Farm Management, Horticulture
Tags: Agriculture, Best Management Practices, Horse, Pastures

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