Creating a mud-free horse paddock that’s as healthy as possible throughout the entire year is simpler than you may think! Just follow our annual paddock maintenance plan to develop a dense and nutritious sward and keep weeds to a minimum.
Here we have season-specific tips on how to keep your paddock at its best, and you can read our horse paddock care guide for more general advice.
Spring Paddock Maintenance
After a long, cold winter, spring is an exciting time! Your horses can start to spend more time out in the paddock again and grass will start to quickly shoot up. This is a perfect time to start on some additional preparation and maintenance to give your paddock grass an extra boost throughout the rest of the year.
- Make a rotation plan for your paddock
If you have enough paddock space, start working on a rotation plan or divide your singular paddock into sections. This will avoid overgrazing and give your paddock grass time to regrow. You can find more information on the damages of overgrazing in our horse paddock maintenance guide.
- Harrow the paddock and level out the ground
The best time for the first harrow is in the spring. For optimal results, carry it out before you fertilise the ground. Harrowing removes any dead grass and levels out bumps in the ground. It’s intended to help improve air movement in the soil and root aeration, which will help water infiltration. This stops water from clogging on the surface of the soil and really lets it penetrate to keep your grass healthy and nutrient-dense.
Where possible, harrow when it’s dry and warm. Although, if you use a chain harrow you can use it when the soil is slightly damp without any problems. If you have a larger paddock area and use a harrow attached to a tractor, only do this when it’s dry.
- Weed control to protect your grass and horses
Weeds are very damaging to paddocks. Not only do they steal nutrients from your grass, but they can also be extremely toxic to horses and humans alike. You can use a selective weedkiller that focuses on killing common weeds without damaging the grass.
Check out our guide on plants that are toxic to horses so you know what to look out for.
- Fertilise your paddock grass
Now that you’ve properly prepared the ground, it’s a great time to fertilise. Use a horse paddock fertiliser that has been specifically designed to promote grass growth in paddocks. Make sure to check the manufacturer’s recommendations for rest periods afterwards.
Summer Paddock Maintenance
After proper preparation in the spring, summer is a great time to focus on maintaining your paddock and adding additional nutrients where possible.
- Regular harrowing will keep your soil in good condition
After your harrow in the spring, it’s important to keep up with regular harrowing. This will help keep the soil aerated to encourage the regrowth of grass after grazing and will remove any dead grass.
- Control grazing to ensure your grass has time to recover
Make sure to review your rotation, or strip grazing, plan as it may need altering depending on the weather conditions and grass growth to reduce the effects of overgrazing. Review it every season to see if your rotation plans need altering in any way.
Controlling grazing isn’t just important for your paddock maintenance, it’s also important for the health of your horse. Overgrazing can lead to obesity, which is one of the most common causes of laminitis.
- Topping the paddock post-grazing
Topping is commonly used to limit how much stemmy grass is in the sward and encourage good-quality grass to regrow for the next grazing rotation. If necessary, take a hay cut off the areas that have been rested.
Autumn Paddock Maintenance
While your horse will still be able to graze during the winter, autumn is the last season where the grass will be bountiful. You can do a lot to prepare it for the winter to ensure it stays as healthy as possible in the more frigid weather.
- Control Grazing
It’s important to control grazing throughout the year, not just in the summer. Decide if you need to adjust your rotation, or strip grazing, and make any necessary changes.
- Paddock fertiliser for your grass
Only apply fertiliser if it’s required and focus it on areas of your paddock that aren’t used for grazing at that time.
- Consider feeding supplements
While you can use paddock fertiliser to encourage the growth of grass throughout the autumn, it will be weather dependent. In especially cold snaps, you may find there’s a decline in the nutrient state of the grass, so consider putting out extra feed for your horses.
Winter Paddock Maintenance
While winter isn’t thought of as a growing season, you’ll still need to practice regular paddock maintenance to keep it in its best condition.
- Encourage drainage
During the winter months, you’ll find soil can become very hard due to the cold weather. This makes it difficult for rain, melting snow and frost to absorb into the soil. Ensure the paddock is kept well-drained and try to prevent areas from becoming waterlogged. This will help to keep the sward well-established and dense.
- Fencing your paddock and basic maintenance
Winter is a great time to do some additional work that you may not have had time for earlier in the year. Review your paddock area and make sure the fencing is adequate. This can also be a great time to review your paddock layout based on what worked well and what didn’t in the previous year’s grazing rotation.
- Make sure the paddock is not overstocked
Try to keep the stocking of horses on each paddock to a minimum to prevent damage to the sward and help keep overgrazing to a minimum. This is important as the soil nutrients are quite low during the winter so you’ll struggle to regrow any grass that is overgrazed before spring.
- Fertiliser and grass seeding in preparation for the spring
Winter is a great time to start preparing for spring so you can have luscious grass for grazing as soon as possible. Review where you need to make plans to order any paddock fertiliser or paddock grass seed ready for the spring.
Have a question about seasonal paddock maintenance? Our team of experts are always on hand to help, just give us a call.