Forage should always make up the majority of your horse’s diet, and winter is no exception. Understandably, grass takes a lot longer to grow back during the winter period, and some regions struggle more than others. Certain South African regions receive a lot of rainfall over winter, and so the grass recovers quicker, but those regions then face problems with muddy, contaminated grazing.
The key to good grazing over winter is forward planning and paddock rotation. We explore these two topics in this month’s HQ.
The sad reality
The problem that many yards face, especially competitive yards, is that their paddocks are simply too small. We build these small paddocks so that our horses are able to go out individually and their space is limited so that they are less likely to injure themselves when turned out. As a result, the natural grazing is eaten away in a short period of time, and we are left with a sandpit for a paddock. The solution then is to provide a pile of hay or eragrostis in the paddock. While your horse certainly will not starve, natural grazing is more beneficial to horses in terms of nutritional content, and natural grazing also encourages the horse to move around and walk when turned out. When he stands to graze for hours at one pile of hay, blood circulation is reduced and you might notice that the horse starts to develop puffy legs from a lack of natural movement.
Come winter, there’s no difference, and our paddocks are still as dry as before, and so we continue the same routine. The majority of yards add a grass levy to clients’ invoices, as there is a greater demand on the suppliers for grass, and it consequently becomes more expensive.
Whenever there is a plan to build a yard or operate as a livery, there should be double the number of paddocks or paddock space as there are horses to allow for paddock rotation between summer and winter. In winter, horses tend to be less active when turned out, as it is instinctual for them to conserve energy and store fat. For this reason, it’s not a bad idea to put two or three horses together in a larger paddock that has been rested over summer. It’s important that you know your horses’ personalities, so that you can plan to put one dominant-type with two other docile-type horses. This way, the leader is quickly established, fighting is avoided and your horses will likely get on well in the paddock. Horses, being social animals by nature, will far rather prefer the company of one or two other horses and slightly more paddock space than being isolated in an individual paddock. Winter is a good time to introduce grouped paddocks, as the horses are less likely to be playful or boisterous. By the time summer comes around, the horses are familiar with one another and the risk of injury is hopefully reduced.
The full article appears in the Winter Guide issue of HQ (June 123) > Shop now