How to Prepare a Pasture for Horses

Putting horses in a pasture that hasn't been properly inspected or prepared can cause many kinds of problems, such as hoof rot from poor soil, broken bones from stumbling in concealed holes, and malnutrition from bad grass. Here is a quick and hopefully pain-free guide to making sure that your present or future horses will have, or do have, a proper home. In addition, there are many tips to keeping the pasture suitable for equine occupation for a long time to come. This article will help you keep your horses healthy, happy, and safe!


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    Check the pasture. Walk over the entire pasture and check for anything that could harm your horse. Such things to watch out for would be: glass,ragwort, barbed wire, splintered wood, large (or even small) pieces of metal, and holes. These can all cause serious harm, or even death, to your animal if not removed, so take careful note.
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    Note the problem areas. Do not pick up or fill in anything in the first run-through of the pasture. Make a map of the pasture, and mark where there are problem areas that have any of the aforementioned problems. This will help you later when you are doing the final run-through, as well as help you notice any pattern in the locations of debris. If you see broken glass or pieces of man-made materials in a certain area more than once, make a mark on the map, and check the surrounding area extra carefully, just in case something was broken or dumped around that area, and spread.
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    Clean the pasture. With a large plastic garbage bag, thick rubber gloves, and a shovel, address any problem areas in the pasture. If you already have a horse living in the pasture, make note of if they are afraid of plastic bags- some horses are. If this is the case, steer clear of the horse while doing this, or place the horse in another pasture entirely.
    • Fill in the holes. This will take a while, of course, but is one of the most important parts to ensuring the safety of your horses. Take dirt from an area where there is some extra, such as from the embankment of the pond, and where you can expect the dirt to fill in relatively soon. Fill in any holes large enough for you to stick your fist into. Take care- if you cannot see the bottom of the hole, it very well may be a snake or gopher hole. If you are not prepared to deal with such animals, make a red mark on the map where that hole is, and come back later when you are prepared to do battle. For all other holes, fill in liberally, tamp the dirt down to make sure it's packed tightly, and come back in a week to make sure that the dirt hasn't settled into the hole, causing another hole.
    • Dispose of the garbage. Recycle if at all possible. Otherwise, it'll end up being trash in someone else's pasture, or just dumped into the ground, and that's not much good in the long run, is it?
    • Eradicate any weeds. Not only do weeds reduce the feeding value of your pasture, but some plants can make horses sick, so find out which species are common in your area. Learn to identify them so that if you see them in the pasture, you can remove them with a shovel, root and all. Keep an eye on those spots for regrowth and use herbicides if necessary.
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    Deal with fencing.
    • Walk the length of the fencing you are using for the pasture, and make sure it is intact. If you have fencing that breaks often, you may want to replace the entire fence.

      • Barbed wire is not a good idea for horses- they can easily hurt themselves by various means with barbed wire, and, to boot, many rescue agencies don't allow you to adopt a horse from them if you have barbed wire.
      • Wooden fences are a safe bet, but break often if you don't maintain them well.
      • Electrical fencing may sound like a good idea, but only in moderation. Using one cord of electrical fence on the top of a wooden fence is normally a relatively safe idea if you have a horse that jumps the fence a lot, but, for the sake of the horse and your electrical bill, turn it down as low as possible.
    • Examine all entrances and exits to the pasture. These are normally the weak points in fencing, since gating may all be dependent upon one half-inch thick rope, and that's it. If your gating situation is similar, seriously consider purchasing a metal gate that has an actual lock on it. Even if your horses are quite tame and docile, the sweetest horse can still take any chance to escape. It's quite a hassle to round them up again. In addition to keeping the horses in, a strong gate is vital to keeping other things out of the pasture. While a determined person probably could just jump the fence, a large animal is easily stopped by maintaining the gating and fencing situation.
    • Talk to your neighbors if you share a fence with them. Tell them that you are preparing to bring in a new horse and need to be sure that they are not planning on changing anything about the fencing if the current fence is acceptable. If the current fencing is not acceptable, tell them before changing anything about the fence, as they may have a reason for leaving the fence as it is. If that is the case, you may have to build a second fence on your side of the pasture. This cuts off your land earlier, but solves any neighbor problems you may be having, and helps control any unruly animals they may have that could pose a danger to your horses.
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    Examine the pasture's resources. Now that it is clean, take this chance to make sure the pasture is actually habitable by horses.
    • Make sure the food supply is adequate. Are your horses going to eat purely grass from the pasture, and survive off of that? If so, see the Tips below. Or are you planning on feeding them hay and horse feed? Make sure that the feeding area is near water, and if you have multiple horses, set up multiple feeding areas broken off from one another. Very often, one horse dominates over the other, and will steal the weaker horse's food. If they are just going to graze for food, verify that there is enough grass. If you live in a dry, arid climate, there may very well not be enough grass growing to feed your horses. Buying bales of hay in the winter is a very good idea; you can simply place a bale out in the pasture, and let the horses eat off of it when they wish to.
    • Ensure adequate water is available for your horses. This is absolutely crucial. A larger paddock may have a dam in it, or it may have a river running through it. In many horse paddocks, you may have to ferry water to a water trough or tub. Simply take a couple of old wash tubs and place them out in the pasture. Fill with water whenever possible. Take another tub and place it where you can easily get to it, and keep it supplied with water at all times.

      • Ensure that the troughs are clean, and away from over hanging branches, as falling leaves will cause the water to become unsanitary faster.
      • Have the trough close to a fence, so as it won't become a hazard to running horses, and so you are able to remove the trough (if portable) in a case of emergency or situation.
      • If you have two adjoining paddocks, an old bathtub may be useful, as you are able to have it in both paddocks by cutting a hole in the fence and having half of the bathtub on each side. Make sure that the tub is clean and free of cracks and sharp edges. A plug is essential to prevent the water from draining out. You can pick up old bath tubs from recycle plants or you can inquire at your local bathtub specialist.
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    Bring in the horses. Bring your horses in during daylight hours, preferably 3 or more hours prior to the sun setting. This way, your horses can learn about their new surroundings, and there will be a less of a chance of finding an injured horse in the morning. Watch them carefully for a couple of days and inspect any wounds that they may develop. If any wounds do develop, and you have reason to suspect that it had something to do with the pasture that could have been avoided (e.g. a long gash along the side, indicating barbed wire somewhere in the field), remove the horses and go back to step one. You want the horses to be as safe and as happy as possible. Checking the fence at least once every 2 or 3 days is also a good idea. If you have time, do a quick check of the pasture and fence once a day.


  • If you have one horse that is much older than the other, plan appropriately. The elder horse may have bone or muscle problems, and not able to defend itself properly. If this is the case, you may wish to segregate the horses. Also, if you have a mare that has a very young foal, keep the two away from any vicious horses you may have by fencing off certain areas from each other.
  • A GPS unit may be helpful for mapping a large pasture.
  • If the pasture seems a bit dry or your horse isn't a good doer, you should check to make sure that the grass is suitable for the horses. The best feed grasses include legumes such as snow peas. The nitrogen fixating nodules will help future grass grow, resulting in a better pasture in months to come.
  • Keep the paddock clean by picking up the manure every morning or afternoon. This will not only reduce the infestation of worms and bots, but will also ensure that the paddock looks clean and tidy, and will ensure all grass is available to eat, as horses won't eat near their manure unless they are really hungry.
  • Sustaining horses solely on pasture requires an examination that is beyond the scope of this article. You have to be sure that the types of grass in the pasture provide the appropriate nutrition for your horses, that there is enough acreage to feed your horses, and that the grasses do not reach an advanced stage of maturity. You may need to fertilize and seed the pasture, as well as rotate your horses regularly. The pastures will be more fertile if you rotate the animals through them, as well as adding fertilizer to the uninhabited area.


  • Make sure you do not use barb wire for fencing if you decide to get the fencing redone! Horses often run into this and cut and injure themselves.
  • Picking up objects like broken pieces of glass and pieces of barbed-wire can really hurt you not just your pony. Be sure to wear gloves. Make sure to take some kind of clean, absorbent material in case you cut yourself, etc. Keep your hair tied up and out of the way, this can obstruct your view and get really annoying! Wear durable clothing like jeans, and if it is summer, you might want to bring sunscreen. Mosquito/Bug spray could be handy as well. If your pasture is large and you will be gone a long time, bring some snacks or at least a bottle of water.

Things You'll Need

  • Solid Work Boots or Gum Boots or Joggers
  • Gloves
  • A Hat
  • Rubbish Bag or Rubbish Bin
  • A ragwort fork
  • Barrow
  • Pencil and Paper
  • Halter and Lead
  • Shovel
  • Fencing
  • Bandages/Band Aids
  • Cell-Phone

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