- Cull horses into smaller areas and rotate frequently.
- Schedule a rotation management program that gives pastures enough time to regenerate (depends on area, time of year, number of horses, water, etc.).
- Mow pastures after moving horses off an area or follow them with livestock (such as cows) that can help manage parasite issues and/or eat what horses will leave.
- Use salt instead of pesticides to control unwanted plants (such as growth under an electric fence wire, burdocks or thistles). This will take more time but can be as effective without the potential harm to horses and the environment. Plus, it can be administered to paddocks being currently grazed. It’s also inexpensive in 50 pound bags.
- Break up manure piles to kill worms that may be ingested later.
- Build gates between paddocks to make transfer to new areas quicker and easier.
- Use herd leaders to help move horse groups to other pastures. If you grab one of the herd leaders (this works best if you can pair her with number two as you begin the migration) to encourage the rest of the herd to follow. This isn’t necessarily the horse that is hostile to the herd to get first dibs on feed or water. Watch the herd to see who they follow. It’s usually a kind mare that doesn’t command respect, but is chosen due to confidence and operatives with seeming indifference.
- Supply shelter from sun, wind, bugs and cold. There are many affordable run-in sheds available for purchase. We’ve found Wood Tex (www.woodtex.com) to be exceptional on the quality, price and customer service fronts. In fact, we can’t build a shelter for the price of their delivered units. If you’re building and have an aggressive horse in the herd, an L-shaped shelter works best.
- Clean out shelters at least daily. Depending on the usage, bedding may be necessary.
- Pick herds to help school young horses. Do you have an arrogant and aggressiveyoung colt that bullies other horses (or humans)? Turn him out with a pregnant mare (or two) for a quick and lasting attitude adjustment. Are you challenged with a young alpha filly that’s torturing and dominating elderly mares? Kick her out with an established younger herd with an established hierarchy. Have a timid or insecure horse? Find a kind mare (or gelding) they can spend time with one-on-one to bond with and build their confidence. Struggling with an aggressive and violent mare that beats the daylights out of other mares she’s introduced to? If you’re determined to attempt socializing her (we go by the two strikes rule with hostile horses – then they’re permanently solo), try putting a young gelding in an adjacent stall first and if they bond, see if pasture companionship works . Watch carefully for signs of aggression and remove the boy if you have time, but don’t get between the two once a battle ensues.
- Ensure horses have clean water at all times.
- Watch the horses’ weight. Heavy horses can be prone to more problems than skinny ones. Limit grazing for obese horses and supplement as needed with those that are harder keepers.
- Stay current on vaccinations. In addition to the standard 4-ways (or 5-ways), we also add West Nile and Rabies. Issues are often geographically-based, so it makes sense to keep apprised of area concerns.
- Make salt and/or a mineral block available.
- Check each horse daily for abrasions, hoof problems (pick them up to make sure nothing is lodged in the foot and/or the health of the frog and sole is good), eye issues, filling in legs and general health and attitude.
Equine Industry Issues
When I was a kid, I dreamed of living among horses in the wild, free as they were to do as I pleased. I figured