The Horse Pasture or Turnout

Horse Pasture Health & Nutrition

Keeping the mind of the horse healthy

Turnout of horses into a well managed horse pasture or paddock is essential for their mental health.

We might think that a pretty barn with little cubicles and horses all tucked away in a row is the ideal setting
But for a horse this is… boring. Imagine standing there for 22 to 24 hours a day !

When horses are kept in horse pastures (at grass) they move around slowly for most of the time. They have different things to look at and if they have a companion they can socialize and groom each other.

Even at grass the horse does not get enough exercise. Exercise and variety is key to the physical and mental health of a horse. The physical health is something we can learn from a book and our vet. Physical health is directly linked to nutrition and exercise. But what about mental health?

Exercise and variety are essential for the well being of horses.

Horse Pasture

Even top level horses can be turned out safely with proper management of horse-pastures and the use of good horse-fencing.
For instance, my very spunky stallion Xantel has too much energy to just turnout like most of the other horses. He tends to gallop and buck and play a bit too exhuberantly, for the size of the paddock I have. So I work him first and make sure he has gotten a lot of that energy out. Then I turn him out. Since he is a stallion, I have to make sure that the horse-fencing is high enough and strong enough to contain him and his energy. With most of his energy used up in working, he quietly walks around his turnout grazing, enjoying the sun and watching all the barn activities. I also make sure to use proper boots for horses that might need them.

I am always careful to turn out horses that like each other next to each other.

Horses that like to spook and run around are turned out next to the old timers who could not be bothered with it. Knowing your horse’s personality, likes and dislikes are key factor for safety.

Variety in their work or exercise is also important to keep horses happy.

Jumping the dressage horse, trail riding, ANY horse, cavaletti work, are all ways to vary their work, give them exercise and keep them happy.

Take care of the mental health of your horse.

Think about the characteristics of their species and the way they would live in nature. Be cautious and safe but let them be horses.

I had to be reminded of this once the hard way and by one of my own horses: Hassa and Stress

Poisonous plants in horse pastures

Its a good idea while learning about horse nutrition to learn about plants can be lethal to horses if consumed in certain quantities.

Whether your horse is kept at grass, or is turned out occasionally in pasture ,it is well worth making a thorough check of your pastures and grazing areas. There are many plants, shrubs and trees that are dangerous to horses. Some plants such as Yew are lethal in even small quantities.

Ragwort is a tall plant with yellow flowers that is fairly easy to recognize. Small doses of Ragwort eaten over a long period of time or large portions consumed quickly are both deadly to the horse. This plant contains an alkaloid that poisons the liver. There is no specific treatment.
Small quantities of Rhododendron can attack the respiratory system of the horse and cause death. Shrubs and trees of this variety should be avoided at all cost.
Yellow Star Thistle
Yellow Star Thistle
Yellow Star Thistle
Don’t think that because it is thistle the horses won’t eat it and actually find it palatable. Those prickly things so painful to the human touch are tasty to some horses!
These are usually found in boggy areas and can be lethal if eaten in large quantities. Horses do not usually eat the stems.
Some plants have a cumulative effect on different systems of the horse. Some can cause poor growth, lack of coordination and/or general loss of condition.
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