How to Improve Your Horse's Paddock

Spreading paddock grass seed with a seed spreader - Boston Seeds

Regular care of your paddock is key to keeping your horses fit and healthy. Ensure that the pasture provides a dense and nutritious sward by using some of the simple paddock maintenance and care methods below. 

For more seasonally specific paddock maintenance advice, check out our yearly planner. 

Overseeding Your Paddock

Overseeding is an incredibly simple and effective way to improve the quality and appearance of your paddock grass. The process of overseeding is where you add additional grass seeds to an existing pasture area and we recommend doing this at least once a year. 

Using a suitable paddock grass seed mixture to overseed is the most successful and economical way to improve horse paddocks that have open swards and damaged areas. 

Overseeding can be done either by manual broadcasting or with the help of a seed spreader. We recommend using a spreader as manual spreading is incredibly time-consuming, especially in larger areas like a paddock. A spreader also ensures an even coverage which is difficult to achieve manually. 

We recommend our Paddock Repair Grass Seed which is specially formulated to establish quickly without the need to disturb your horses grazing. It’s particularly good for repairing poached areas along fences and in gateways.

Reseeding Damaged Areas of Your Paddock

Like overseeding, reseeding helps fill out any areas of your paddock that are looking a little patchy and bare. The main difference is overseeding involves adding grass seed to existing areas of grass, whereas reseeding will fill areas that have been overgrazed. You can find out about overgrazing in our maintenance guide

If reseeding is necessary, we recommend using either our Classic Horse Paddock Grass Seed or Triple ‘H’ Horse Paddock Grass seed. Both of these paddock grass seed mixtures are ideal for new paddocks, so will fill out any patchy areas in your paddock in no time. 

The most common areas for reseeding is along fences and gateways. This is because as well as being grazed, these areas are walked over frequently. If you catch these patchy areas early enough, you can overseed them along with the rest of your paddock.

Reseeding can also be helpful if your horse’s dietary needs have changed and you need to start growing grass with a nutrient ratio better suited to them. You can read more specific advice on choosing the right grass seed to help prevent and treat laminitis.

Harrowing to Help Rejuvenate Your Paddock 

For grass that is used for grazing, it’s always advised to harrow before overseeding. Chain harrowing opens the sward and removes dead grass ready for the introduction of your grass seed. Harrowing will also help improve air circulation in the soil and root aeration. This helps water infiltration so new seeds and growing grass can be properly fed. 

Harrowing has many overall benefits on the health of your soil. As well as aerating the soil, it can help break up clods and level out any bumps - creating a more even surface to sow seeds and fertiliser. While harrowing won’t remove weeds, it can help to break up moss clumps which makes it easier to then go in with moss killer and lawn feed. This helps rejuvenate the existing grassland, keep a regular sward and avoid any unnecessary injuries to the horses due to uneven ground. 

Chain harrows are some of the most popular tools for paddock harrowing and they’re relatively inexpensive. Another upside is chain harrows can be used on slightly damp soil, which is a common sight in spring. For larger paddocks, you can use a harrow attached to your tractor but be aware, this should only be done on dry soil.

It’s important to give new seedlings every chance to compete with established grass, so nitrogen applications should be delayed or reduced as this stimulates growth in existing grass. 

Fertilisation to Keep Your Soil Full of Nutrients

Making sure you have the right fertiliser for your paddock maintenance is absolutely essential as your horse relies on grass for many of their nutrients. Before fertilising, test the soil to establish the pH. This will help you understand what nutrients your soil actually needs for optimal health. The optimal pH is 6.5 and samples should be taken from February through to April or September through to December. It’s important to take regular readings to ensure you have a steady understanding of your soil’s pH level. Taking just one sample can be misleading and can lead to the wrong fertiliser being used.

If the pH is acidic, applying lime will help to reduce the acidity enabling the grass to get all of the necessary nutrients. It’s important to deal with the acidity level of soil as soon as possible as acidic soil will decrease plant nutrients, such as phosphorus and molybdenum. Not only does it take nutrients, but it can actually provide toxic levels of aluminium and manganese which can kill off the grass.

Paddock fertiliser is best applied in the spring and autumn. Granular fertiliser can be applied with a spreader and like spreading grass seed, it’s far quicker than doing it by hand and ensures even coverage to avoid clumping. It’s important to make sure your fertiliser is applied evenly or you can end up with patchy grass growth which encourages overgrazing in specific areas.

Paddock Rotation to Avoid Overgrazing

Paddock rotation is one of the simplest ways to avoid overgrazing, as we discuss in more detail in our maintenance guide. Overgrazing is essentially where a specific area is grazed continuously without giving the grass time to recover and regrow. It will end up with dead patches of grass that need to be reseeded and extra fertilisation to replace all of the soils lost nutrients.

Regularly Weed and Keep a Check on Harmful Plants

Removing weeds should be a priority when caring for your paddock. Weeds are harmful to the overall health of your paddock grass as they will suck up all the nutrients from the soil, leaving very little for your grass. One of the more urgent reasons though is many common weeds can be incredibly harmful to your horse’s health. You can use a selective weedkiller to remove weeds without damaging your grass. 

Read our guide on toxic plants to learn about common harmful plants, how to deal with them and symptoms of ingestion. 

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Have a question about horse paddock grass? Our team of experts are on hand to help, just get in touch!