Horse pasture questions.


In the Brooder
9 Years
Dec 29, 2010
I am clearing land for a pasture and have two questions.

1. Small saplings "thumb sized" do they need to be pulled up roots and all or could they just be cut off flush with the ground? I will disc the area after clearing, but wondered if the stumps left behind would damage hoofs, frogs, etc.
2. I can get a good deal on Kentucky 31 Fescue seed, is this a good grass for pasture?

Any help or suggestions will be appreciated.
I would pull them up by the roots to be on the safe side. I once knew a horse who stepped on a sapling stump after the pasture had been brushhogged and it it split her hoof. Never fully healed.

Fescue has been linked to fertility problems, but there are others on here who are FAR more expert than I am.
I can get a good deal on Kentucky 31 Fescue seed, is this a good grass for pasture?

Fescue carries a fungus that causes fertility and foaling problems in mares and growth problems in newborn foals. Kentucky 31 is probably the worst offender. However, there are any number of fescues that have been developed that either do not have the fungus or their fungus is benign. The kicker is that they are harder to maintain and you cannot tell just by looking if they are being overcome by Kentucky 31. If you are not breeding horses, the only issues seem to be an extra heavy coat growth and a failure to thrive in some horses. Or at least that is how the local ag guy explained it to me when I was getting ready to seed new pastures about 5 years ago. I opted to avoid problems and seeded with Bermudagrass instead.


That is really nice that you are doing all that.

I'd take anything out of the pasture area that I could. Horses have a way of killing themselves on the smallest thing. I don't cut anything off at ground level, and backfill and compact the area after I took out the junk.

And of course some types of trees, you don't want around horses - any of the cherries, black walnut, a lot of the ornamentals, ewe shrubs, etc. You can get a list from your ag extension office or look it up on the internet.

It's better if it comes right out.

It won't be at ground level for long if you leave it there. It will continue to grow, the ground will erode, etc, and in no time it will be an obvious hazard. Too a horse has a flat large foot and what doesn't seem like much of a problem to a human or dog or smaller stock is a problem with a horse.

You might especially take a look at trees that will be inside, but near the fence. You'd be amazed at what a horse can make happen with those. I'd leave 20' between fence and any tree, more if I had over 1 horse per acre in there.

We took out all the rocks, trees, saplings, the whole nine yards.

Where we had a really nice tree we wanted to preserve, we either had it outside the fence or so far in from the fence, that it wasn't a hazard.

And of course the other reason is that when you have to mow, you don't want to damage the blade on your tractor or mower. Honestly it is awful trying to work around a lot of junk no matter what you're doing - seeding, reseeding, fertilizing, liming, mowing, fixing fence...all those little saplings and junk become a huge pain in the backside over the years.

Of course I also like that I can mow everything with a bigger machine and I don't have to go out a second and third time with a little mower, a weedwacker and fuss a lot to get things mowed.

I even like having a clear strip on the outside side of the fence - partly because I have electric and that helps to keep it working and makes maintenance easier, but also because I can control poison ivy and other stuff that's trying to make its way into my property, by maintaining that outside strip.

Oh yes, mowing. That's another part of maintaining a grass pasture. All livestock graze unevenly - if it's left to the animals to do the mowing, the pasture will be full of weeds and woody shrubs in a year or two.

As far as a straight fescue mix, I wouldn't. Because of the issues with fescue itself, because a good many horses don't find it all that palatable, because under some growing conditions it grows too fine for horses (and causes impaction in the gut) but also because no pasture of one type of plant, is going to succeed.

It's better to buy a standard mix that's designed for your area. What plants are in the mix and at what percentage, will be different for each region.

That way, the plants that are more suited to your land will do well - also with a mix, it's set up so there are early season and late season grasses - when one is affected by late summer heat and dryness or are just done with their growing season, another species won't be. The mix gives you better control of your runoff, prevents mud/dust/erosion, overgrazing.

If you have very heavy clay-ey or less well draining land where alfalfa and clover will go bananas and choke everything else out, that's worth thinking about ahead.

Pasture with a lot of those legumes (alfalfa, clover) isn't always good for all horses especially small ponies and 'easy keepers' that get fat easily.

So there - with heavy clay-ey land you have to talk to your ag extension office and see what they can suggest.
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Do you have white ash?

White ash trees send out runners at the roots that crop up in the most inconvenient places. I've been fighting those buggers in my garden for 3 years. Even though I pull up as much of the root as I possibly can, I am still plagued by them in the garden.
Agree with basically all the above. Seeding in a mix is usually better than a single grass; fescue mainly only an issue for breeding and if you *are* breeding it will be a *continual* issue even if you seed endophyte-free stuff b/c it gets recontaminated (that's not really the right word). Make sure to let the pasture sit for at least two full seasons, preferably a year or more, before grazing; you will need to *mow* it a few times during that period, but if you start grazing it too soon you will get poorly-established poorly-thriving grass that gets overgrazed too easily and is ill-equipped to bounce back from grazing, weather, winter, etc. Ask around locally, both with farmers/feed-store AND with your local extension service, to ensure you are getting a sensible seed mix for your area and soil conditions. A "bargain" is no bargain if it results in a poor quality pasture.

And again, yes, really try very hard to get all the roots and stumps out, you may wish to snake them out with a tractor and chain, or in a time of wet ground use a grubbing tool for small saplings, rather than brushhogging. They often do rise up out of the ground (or ground sinks away around them, same difference) and relaly do pose a threat to hooves and mower blades. There are lots of trees, not just white ash, that sucker from stumps or roots -- BUT that itself is not a big issue IME b/c if you are mowing your new pasture regularly, as you ought to be, that will get any babies before they get large enough to pose a threat to hooves or blades, and they'll gradually die out.

Good luck, have fun,

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