The Biggest Mistakes Made by Horse Owners – Part 1 – (HOW TO AVOID AN OVERGRAZING NIGHTMARE)


Hi there, Jane here from Equiculture. We (Stuart
and I) have worked with horses and their owners in many counties, all around the world, I
(Jane) carried out research about The Grazing Behaviour of horses and we are authors of
several books on the subject of SUSTAINABLE HORSEKEEPING. Sustainable Horsekeeping is
all about how to keep your horses in a way that keeps them healthy and happy, saves you
time and money, and is good for the environment, ALL AT THE SAME TIME! A win-win-win when you
get it right! We want to share with you some of the most
common mistakes made by horse owners with regards to their horse and land management. The most common mistake we see (by a long
shot) is overgrazing! Here the grass is far too short, it has been
overgrazed and is therefore stressed. An easy way to tell if your pasture is overgrazed
is that If you can see individual piles of manure from a distance then it is far too
short! Short grass is stressed grass, which means
unhealthy grass, stressed root systems and therefore unhealthy soil. What you see above the surface i.e. the amount
– height and density of the plants, is roughly copied in the amount – the length and density
of the root system. So short, stressed grass equals a short, stressed root system, whereas
longer plants mean that the roots are more abundant and go much further down into the
soil. …Also, not only do the roots die back when
the grass is shorter but the roots are slower to recover. Which means that when the plant
starts to grow again it takes it much longer to get to a stage where it can really recover,
so short plants are continuously ‘playing catch up’ so to speak… Please be sure to give this video the thumbs
up and if you would like to become a more knowledgeable horse owner make sure you subscribe
to this channel and hit the bell to be notified when a new video become available every week! Healthy soil means that means much more air
and water gets into the soil, which means that beneficial organisms can live in the
soil (and do their thing). So, a strong healthy root system is VITAL for the health of the
soil. One more MASSIVE advantage of longer plants
is that they SEQUEST CARBON – Soooo important if we want to help the planet because this
means that the plants are taking carbon out of the atmosphere and depositing it in the
soil. So, by growing healthy pasture you are helping to save the planet!!!!! Amazing eh! Something you should know is that, yes trees
are really good for the planet, but healthy pasture IS EVEN BETTER, because it does the
same job that trees do (in terms of Sequestering Carbon) but it does it much faster!! So, you,
as a horse owner, can actually be part of the solution to some of the ENVIRONMENTAL
problem we are all facing at the moment! Back to short, stressed grass, this short,
stressed grass not only affects your horse’s well-being (because it is super high in sugar
per mouthful) but it also leads to… Soil compaction – which means you have mud
(when it is wet), dust (when it is dry) and erosion (because there is nothing to hold
the soil together). Soil compaction is caused because the plants become too short or even
disappear altogether, then the weight of your heavy horse standing around on the bare soil
JUST ADDS TO THE PROBLEM! After that point, rainfall can then actually
make the problem even worse, because it is no longer able to be ABSORBED into the soil
and work its magic there, it then either sits on the top of the soil, unable to soak in
(because the soil is compacted) or washes off the soil, taking loose soil particles
with it. Believe me – the last thing you want is to lose your precious soil!!!! Soil compaction also leads to weeds, because
they are usually the only plants that can grow in this degraded, hard soil. Weeds are
generally great opportunists, they are able to thrive in bare stressed soils, in fact,
in many cases, weeds are nature’s way of protecting or repairing damaged soils. In fact, in MOST cases, weeds are better than
bare soil because they do the great work that all plants do for the soil and the wider environment,
but you want mainly edible plants in your horse pasture, so you need to get the right
balance of grass plants, Herbs, Forbes etc., some of which WILL be regarded as weeds by
say a dairy farmer – but that is another story for another video. So, you do not want too many of the wrong
sort of weeds. So, soil compaction, and bare soil, is a sure
sign that your land is under too much pressure. It is very easy for a horse to overgraze a
pasture. Because they have two rows of front teeth (unlike a cow) that meet at the front
(like a pair of scissors in the mouth), horses are able to eat grass right down to the ground,
and if they get really hungry they will even pull what is left of the grass out of the
ground, short roots and all. Grazing, along with the action of the hard
hooves on the ground is termed ‘Grazing Pressure’. Too much grazing pressure puts
stress on the pasture plants and the soil, resulting in land degradation and larger numbers
of unhealthy pasture species. So, to avoid overgrazing, try to manage your
grazing to keep the grass between 5cm and 20 cm (2.5 inches to 8 inches) to promote
healthy growth, produce a strong root system, encourage biodiversity and create a healthy
diet for your horse. And how do you do this? Well, that leads us
nicely to the next most common mistake. Not resting and rotating pastures enough or
even at all! This is why the first mistake, overgrazing
pasture, happens and proper resting and rotating of pastures is the best way of avoiding it. Set stocking is the most commonly used ‘system’
of horse land management and is where all of the available pasture is used continuously.
Putting horses on the same pasture every day puts enormous stress on the pasture plants,
and the soil. It is the opposite of what occurs to pastures in the natural situation, where,
very briefly, grazing animals graze pasture plants but only for a short amount of time,
then they keep moving forward and leave to plants to have a period of rest and recovery,
before another herd of grazing animals (usually a different animal species) come along. Different
animal species also tend to select different plants in the pasture which gives the plants
even more time to rest and recover. In a nutshell, by resting your pasture and
using a rotational grazing system you get increased fodder production (and that is healthier
pasture), a stronger root system, more carbon sequestration, more soil health etc. etc. In this picture, you see a grazing area that
has been divided into three to allow for rest and rotation to happen. From right to left
you see that in the first area the horses have grazed it down, they have been removed
and the pasture plants are now resting and recovering. The middle area is the one currently
being grazed. The area on the left has been allowed to rest and now has a good length
of healthy pasture. We don’t have time to go into it in this video, but longer pasture
plants are safer for your horses to graze than short stressed grasses, because they
are lower in sugar PER MOUTHFUL. They instead have a higher percentage of fibre PER MOUTHFUL. You need to rest a pasture until it has grown
to an average height of 15/20cm (around 8 inches), then put the horses on it and graze
it down to an average height of around 5cm (2.5inches), then remove the horses and graze
them on the next pasture. The Equicentral System that we developed many years ago and
have been teaching to horse owners around the world, shows you how to do this very successfully.
It usually also involves having a surfaced area (a loafing yard) that the horses spend
time on (often voluntarily). So, by simply grazing pasture and then resting
it, and thereby allowing it time to recover, you will have a stronger, more abundant and
healthier pasture. You will save money on bought-in feed. Your horses will be doing
more of what comes naturally to them. You will have healthier soil. You will be helping
the planet by sequestering more carbon. The list goes on – all just because you let
your horses help you to create a win-win-win all round situation… You can find out a lot more about The Equicentral
System on our website – there is a link below…We also have a free mini-course that
you can sign up for, there is a link below for that as well. If you have enjoyed this video please let
us know by liking it. Subscribe and share with your fellow horsey friends and please
leave a comment with what you found interesting. If you are interested in learning more about
better horse management by learning about what is really important to your horse we
also have a private Facebook group but do the course first and see if this interests


24 Responses

  1. Equiculture and Horse Riders Mechanic

    October 16, 2019 7:07 am

    We hope you enjoy this video about horses and the subject of overgrazing – this subject always gets LOTS of interest when we talk about it in our Facebook group and on our Facebook pages (links above). Please leave a comment with what you found interesting and make sure you SUBSCRIBE to our channel (and hit the bell for notifications) so that you do not miss out on innovative and free information from EQUICULTURE!

    Sign up here for the FREE mini-course about Horse Grazing Characteristics – and start learning about the very important things your horse really wants you to know!

  2. glen lapworth

    October 16, 2019 9:29 am

    Although I am not a horse owner, Ive found this very informative and what the effects are in the environment….thank you.

  3. Kathryn Birnie

    October 16, 2019 9:57 am

    It's really good to get information about sustainable horse management from such a reliable source. Things are changing and this website is the place to keep us up to date with the very latest research. Thank you.

  4. Rebecca Seager

    October 16, 2019 10:15 am

    Love this video! Fantastic to have such a useful, relevant and up to date resource delivered in a method that is easy to follow and understand and convenient – you can listen anywhere!

  5. Charin Singh

    October 16, 2019 11:10 am

    Very interesting video not just from a horse orientated view but land management and how it affects the environment. Maybe there is scope for broadening this out to an audience wider than the horse community as these are issues that affect us all. Look forward to viewing more by this presenter.

  6. Rebecca Gimenez

    October 16, 2019 12:32 pm

    AS a horse person and as an equine scientist it's embarrassing to drive by so many horse properties where the soil and the pastures/paddocks are just abused by overgrazing, lack of management and of course the horses usually look either way too fat (too much grass not being correctly used) or poorly and low BCS – depending on how damaged the property is. People wonder why others don't want us to own horses in the neighborhood – it's not hard to figure out when so many horse people let their manure stink, don't manage their pastures, and don't do anything to prevent flies. Heck – I don't want horse people living near me for the same reasons and I am a horse person! THANK YOU for providing this information in a manner that is interesting, useful and applicable.

  7. Astrid De Vries

    October 16, 2019 1:13 pm

    I think the majority of horse owners have a lack of time and grazing space…. this is what causes the bare land and sometimes fat horses. It is also often hard to estimate when the grass will grow proper again (spring), so when to give them more/better grass. This rotation system is good ofcourse but often not possible as only 1 field is available year round so only strip grazing can be used, or the grazing is rented so no big changes can be made (horses figure out how electric fences work, thus escape and get fat). This is a major and complicated problem and although this video is great for people with big farms and no clue, it's no solution for others unfortunately.

  8. James March

    October 16, 2019 1:18 pm

    I often struggle with these issues, I have 2 growing horses and they have made our pasture a muddy mess. This all makes sense now. Thanks!

  9. Clay

    October 16, 2019 1:52 pm

    Great video! Very important information. For those interested in delving deeper, I would encourage you to read the book 'Dirt To Soil' by Gabe Brown. Really sheds light on the importance of rotational grazing, as well as managing your pastures to support nature's critical relationship between pasture grasses and the mycorrhizal fungi that provide grasses with the nutrients they need, as well as support healthy soil composition (something that is lost when we rely on synthetic, chemical fertilizers rather than organic fertilizers like compost).

  10. georgina craig

    October 16, 2019 2:05 pm

    I very much like it, but when I see friends keeping their previously overweight and currently wannabe overweight horses on short grass – and it works, with regard to weight anyway- I find it difficult to put the argument. I think it HAS worked for mine, most obviously with loan Shetland of 5 years, as he is rarely kept short of feed/grass but chooses to spends lots of time off the grass area and isn't too fat. Its summer's end now and he will lose weight over winter of course. Owners are pleased with how 'slim' he is! Longer grass/ more fibre/less sugars -( less stressed).  Love the carbon capture aspect too

  11. Claire Godbehere

    October 16, 2019 4:32 pm

    Very informative. It’s a whole new way of thinking. Great to have it on YouTube to refer to and use the videos to introduce others to the concepts.

  12. Felicity George

    October 16, 2019 5:21 pm

    Great video. As additional motivation, having been managing rotation for a couple of years now, the lack of mud (horse's legs, my legs, yard, tracked into the car…) is wonderful!

  13. Cristina Wilkins

    October 16, 2019 11:06 pm

    WOW! Of all the very important advice on grazing, learning what overgrazing actually means has really changed how I think about pasture management – now I really understand why and when to close the gate to an area – THANK YOU!!! 🙂

  14. Iznaya Kennedy

    October 16, 2019 11:19 pm

    This education helps sustain the life of horses, the finite pasture a horse owner has control over and the money that needs to be spent on keeping horses healthy. Learning how to look after pasture in a sustainable way is a no-brainer and Equiculture remains at the forefront of my horse management, ever since first learning about it in 2010.

  15. Penny Grimes

    October 16, 2019 11:22 pm

    Really helpful and valuable info for helping me to take the best care of my horses that I can, thank you!


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