20 Things To Consider When Creating a Paddock Rotation System for Horses

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(Newswire.net — October 28, 2020) — When faced with acres of empty space for your horses, dividing it up into several smaller grazing paddocks is essential to ensuring good grass supply, and to reduce the inevitable wear and tear on your fields. It is also an important measure for avoiding horse pasture bullying and managing their intake if they are prone to laminitis during those months when the grass is at its lushest. 

Of course, just as there is no one horse for every rider, there is no one fence that will be perfect for every horse. While there are plenty of things you can do to ensure that your horses remain safe and secure in their paddocks, some horses will need you to bend the ‘usual’ rules of paddock creation in order to make certain that they are kept happy and healthy when you turn them out. 

With that in mind, here are a few pointers to get you started as you create your paddock system for your horses, from choosing the right farming supplies to ensuring that your fences can withstand a little punishment from your horses.

  1. Fencing Type

With so much choice, it can be difficult to decide what type of horse fencing is best for your yard. From a timber post and rail fence to high tensile wire, electric, and stud rail, there are plenty of options to consider for your horses. Post and rail or stud rail remain two of the most popular options because they are highly durable and long-lasting, and offer a strong defense against horses prone to pushing, rubbing, or cribbing on the boundaries of their paddocks. 

There are several factors to consider when selecting the type of fencing for your horses, which we will explore in more detail below. As a general rule of thumb, the right fencing will be one that can be constructed to a suitable height, remain sturdy throughout the seasons, and discourage horses from escaping. 

  1. Safety

To ensure the safety of your horses, you should only ever source your farming supplies and equipment from industry professionals who offer only high-quality products. Cheap or low-quality fencing will render your horses more vulnerable to injury and will be more prone to significant damage or breaks that rack up further costs as you replace entire sections of the fence. 

Similarly, avoid any fencing types that could cause injury to your horses, such as barbed wire. While some horses will steer clear of fencing, others will push it to its limits, and if you are not around to calm them down, they could panic. 

  1. Height

It’s a fact of life: some horses will feel that urge to jump the fence no matter what – or who – is on the other side of it. Experts often suggest that the ideal fence height for horses stands at around five feet, or just under if jumping is not a significant issue. A lower rail should be installed, as many smaller horses and ponies are capable of rolling beneath the fence when they want to break through. If this is an issue, horse-safe mesh can be installed to create a stronger barrier. 

To add some additional height, a top line of electrical tape can act as an excellent deterrent for horses prone to cribbing, and any who may have a tendency to behave hostilely toward neighbours turned out into separate paddocks. 

Some larger horses or stallions will require a taller fence – possibly up to six foot. If it is too low, they may well make an attempt at jumping the fence, and could end up injuring themselves in the process. Consider how they react to your current fencing, and plan accordingly. 

  1. Electricity

Adding a line or two of electric fencing is an excellent way of deterring your horses from rubbing up against the fencing, chewing on it, or attempting to knock it down or hop over the top. This is a simple, cost-effective option that will increase the efficacy – and support the lifespan – of your fence, and encourage your horses to respect boundaries more. 

If you opt for a line of electrical tape, then ensure that it is not shorting through your existing fence posts by attaching it with suitable insulators. Similarly, be mindful of the grass and vegetation growing beneath your fence line, as this could cause a short and prevent the entire length of your fence from carrying a consistent charge.

Electric fencing can be highly effective, provided it is regularly maintained and properly earthed at the energiser, and that your battery – if you are using one – is always kept charged. If this proves difficult, then solar energisers offer an efficient means of energy production and storage for your electric fencing. 

  1. Durability

Any timber fencing should be pressure treated against rot. Any moisture in the soil can quickly undermine untreated wood and cause irreparable damage to the fence, which could mean that, in time, it is easily knocked or blown over. When timber has been pressure treated, that means that it has been preserved with a protective treatment that will prolong its lifespan outdoors – particularly when it is exposed to moisture.

For metal fencing, galvanized steel (or galvanized wire for electric fencing) offers an incredibly durable material that is much less prone to rusting than other, untreated metals. In areas that experience significant snow, rain, hail and frost during the winter months, this will prove invaluable and ensure that your money is not wasted. 

  1. Longevity

Of course, one of the most important factors for you to consider is the lifespan of your fencing. Protecting your investment and ensuring that your fences are able to withstand plenty of years’ worth of use is a matter of procuring only high-quality materials that have been suitably treated against outdoor use. 

Untreated, raw timber is likely to have the shortest lifespan of all fence types. Not only will it begin to rot soon after it is driven into moist ground, but it could also suffer significant damage from pests, which will mean that you will need to replace it regularly. 

  1. The Gate

Your gate should, of course, be strong and secure, but it should also be simple enough for you to open when you only have one hand available. Horses are prone to clustering around the gate – particularly when they know a meal is imminent – which makes it an area that will see significantly more wear and tear than other areas of the fence. A galvanized steel gate will offer the most durable and sturdy solution for your grazing paddock and will be much better protected against rust. 

Some horses are rather adept at solving the puzzle of opening closed gates. If this is an issue, then a strong spring-loaded bolt or hook and eye will offer a great solution for any horses prone to working their way through weaker latches, while remaining simple and straightforward for you to open and close when you only have one hand to spare. 

All fixtures should be attached on the exterior of the gate, to avoid injury within the paddock. If you are experiencing any issues with horses prying the fixtures open, then a drop bolt will provide an additional level of protection against escapees. 

  1. Paddock Size

While the size, age, activity level and temperament of your horses will largely dictate the size of paddock they require for grazing, a good rule of thumb is to allow one acre of grazing land per horse, or approximately 4046 square meters per paddock per horse. Horses will make short work of eating away the grass in a smaller paddock, so ensuring plenty of space and division for rotational grazing is incredibly important – particularly if you are turning several horses out together.

Not only in terms of grass consumption, but in terms of exercise, plenty of space is vital. Horses tend to feel more inclined towards exercise when they are in regularly shaped paddocks. Square or, ideally, rectangular paddocks are best. If they have plenty of room in which to move about confidently, it will encourage them to move about more – particularly if they are turned out with another, livelier horse with whom they get along. 

  1. Water

Construct your grazing paddocks around a central area in which you have access to fresh water. This system will prove most efficient, and prevent you from having to introduce a fresh water source into every paddock individually. Natural water sources can quickly become muddy and waterlogged if not managed properly – and they will attract insects during the warmer months – so consider fencing these off from the main paddock. 

  1. Shelter

Every horse needs to be able to access shelter from direct sunlight, rain and snow. While most horses will choose to spend the majority of their time out grazing, there will be times when they wish to withdraw from the elements and keep dry or cool.

Field shelters can be relatively basic when compared to your stables, and may be temporary – providing, of course, that they are structurally sound. There is a wide range of options available to you, from semi-permanent structures to pasture tents that offer versatility when you are moving your horses from pasture to pasture regularly. 

  1. Maintenance

Timber fencing offers an attractive and durable option for grazing paddocks, but excessive moisture in the earth can make it much more vulnerable to rotting, which, if left untreated, can undermine the structural integrity of your entire fence. Regular checks will be necessary, and any rot should be removed – and the post, if raw timber, should be treated with a preservative – or, if necessary, the post should be replaced with one that has been pressure treated against rot. 

The voltage in an electric fence should be checked regularly for shorts in the circuit, which will often occur if the fence is making contact with the grass or your wooden fence posts – or, of course, poor earthing.

  1. Visibility

Ensuring that your fencing is easily discernible to your horse is essential to ensuring that they remain safe in their paddocks. If wire or tape is barely visible to them, then they may charge straight into the fencing and get tangled within it, which is why many horse owners choose to opt for white tape as it will create a starker contrast with the surrounding landscape. 

Of course, this is another factor that depends entirely on your horses, and how they behave when turned out – consider what will work best for you, and for them. 

  1. Capacity

Horses are, by nature, sociable animals, and most will thrive when they are put out with other horses with whom they get along well. While some horse owners will choose to make larger paddocks (allowing, of course, a minimum of one acre per animal), others will opt to keep them separated, but within close proximity to one another. In this way, they can continue to interact without the risk of bullying or intimidation from others.

  1. Easy Management

Of course, the primary purpose of a rotational grazing system is to ensure that your horses can always be turned out into a good quality paddock while another is left to recover and regrow a good source of food for your horses. If you are wondering how to get started, take a look at this guide for some excellent tips on practical paddock management to ensure good conditions year round.

Creating an efficient and operational pasture grazing system will take plenty of time on your part, but it will ensure that your horses are always able to be turned out after a long ride into a well-maintained space in which they can eat, exercise, and socialise with others. Take some time to plan a design for the fields that works for you, and provides a welcoming space for your horses.