Im trying to figure out a few things about owning horses.

Discussion in 'Other Pets & Livestock' started by fushalilly, Mar 2, 2009.

  1. fushalilly

    fushalilly Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 9, 2008
    Rhode Island
    When I am older, I want to have two Quarter horses mostly for leisure and becuase I simply enjoy their precense and what it involves for caring for them. My question is, does it cost less in the food department if your horse has access to a lot of land to graze? For example, lets say two horses had four acres of grassland to graze in 12 hours a day. How much would they eat in grain and hay? Also, I worked at a horse farm once and I never recalled seeing them feed their horses grain. Is grain completely necessary or is it just something you can do for your horse?
  2. snewman

    snewman Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 22, 2007
    Belleville, WI
    There are LOTS of opinions about how horses should be cared for. I will give you my thoughts and what has been working for me. To answer your first question, yes, if a horse has access to decent pasture (that has good grass and not all weeds) that will reduce your feed costs for all of the months of the year that the pasture isn't covered in snow (if you get snow?). I feel that horses that have as much access to pasture as possible are the happiest and healthiest. They have evolved to eat large amounts of forage, not so much grain, so having a larger component of the diet in grass or hay is important. If they are not being ridden heavily, as in working or showing horses, and do not have issues with keeping weight on, grain really isn't even necessary. Some mineral supplements may be needed, depending on your soil type, and often those can be found in a grain mix, or added to a basic grain, so that might mean you would feed a very small amount of grain in order for them to get the minerals. Most normal, healthy horses on good pasture don't need grain at all if they are not working heavily. If the pasture is too rich (alfalfa, etc), you may need to limit the amount of time they graze. They can overgraze on a very rich pasture and suffer various ailments (colic, laminitis). They should be introduced to any new pasture in short time increments to help their digestive system get used to it before being left on the pasture for 12 hours straight.

    So, long answer, but having pasture available will reduce your feed costs, you don't necessarily have to feed grain, and depending on what kind of winter you have, if you have to buy hay, the price varies widely in different parts of the country, so you'll have to kind of check around about that. Hope that helps a little.
  3. fushalilly

    fushalilly Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 9, 2008
    Rhode Island
    Thanks a lot snewman. Really helped![​IMG]
  4. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:Typical horses (not pregnant, not nursing a foal, not a breeding stallion, not with relevant health problems, not in STRENUOUS training) do really well on good pasture without any supplemental hay or grain at all (a salt block is usually desirable tho).

    Not everywhere has good pasture, however; and even if you start out with it, it may not stay that way.

    I would say that the majority of horsekeeping properties I've seen, do not have particularly good pasture. Even in geographic regions where good pasture is fairly easy to have. Because people overload the pasture with horses, and let them stomp it all to heck during mud season and overgraze it badly, and the soil gets compacted and leached and depleted and the weeds take over from the grass and the dirt takes over from the weeds.

    The amount of land it takes to support a horse varies WILDLY across the country and even between properties in a single area. So don't get too attached to the '2 acres' number -- for a horse living out 24/7 that will only be enough in the very best pasture-growing regions of the country, and still may not be quite enough unless the soil is exceptionally well drained. (Compaction from hooves stomping damp or muddy ground is just as much a threat to pasture health as overgrazing is).

    Also, I don't know of anywhere (there may *be* somewhere, I've just never heard of it [​IMG]) where pastures grow well enough all year round to keep horses on full pasture 12 months a year.

    So realistically, even IF you start with good pasture and keep it in good ongoing condition, there will be some months of each year when you need to feed hay instead. Thus the need for a hay budget even if your horses live out 24/7 on good pasture
    year-round [​IMG]

    Also, I worked at a horse farm once and I never recalled seeing them feed their horses grain. Is grain completely necessary or is it just something you can do for your horse?

    Actually, it is often something you "can" do TO your horse. Not only is it frequently/usually unnecessary, it is frequently somewhat a BAD idea. I do firmly believe there are some situations when a concentrate of some sort is desirable or really necessary; and grain (preferably in the form of 'straight' grains, not sweet feed, IMO) is one of your options for that.

    But IMHO an awful lot of horses getting grain would be the same or better off without it.

    Have fun,

  5. coolchickens

    coolchickens Chillin' With My Peeps

    Excellent answers Snewman. Mine are all on dry pasture so it has become very expensive now buying hay. Your right about horses being much happier on grass pasture and it is very important to know the quality of the grass in that pasture and this will tell you if you need to supplement any hay. Also beware that horses on pasture will need to be wormed regularly as a rule as the grass ends are where they like to hide out for the horses. Hay should be placed in feeders if on bare ground. Also occasional use of a psyhillium to flush the gut is good to clean out sand/decomposed granite if they are exposed to this. I rarely use grain as I only pleasure ride now (50 yrs riding horses now). Grain works great for supplements or some meds. Sharon
  6. Rusty Hills Farm

    Rusty Hills Farm Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 3, 2008
    Up at the barn
    So much depends on WHERE you are. I spent most of my 60+ years in coastal Florida where there was grass pretty much year round. HOWEVER, even the fertilized grass did not have all the nutrients necessary to maintain an animal in decent condition. Because the soil is sandy and there is so much annual rainfall, most of the nutrients get washed away. So I have always needed to supplement pasture with concentrates in the form of grain and additives.

    Since all of my experience is with quarter horses who are being used pretty hard--working cattle, being trained, raced, shown or bred, or a combination of these-- supplementation has been vital for condition.

    Now I am in Alabama and I am having a hard time with those months where there is no pasture available. Hay is very expensive compared to pasture and it has really been hard for me to judge whether or not I am feeding enough hay to make up for those bare pastures right now. Everybody on the place is a homebred, so I have intense emotional ties to their well-being, and I'd rather err on the side of too much than too little.

    It is all really a learning experience and often what you learned in one place does not apply at all when you move somewhere else. I'm 50 years into this and I still learn new things all the time. That's part of what makes it so interesting. I think the key is to be flexible and willing to make changes as you learn new things. Try not to expect the "rules" you've already learned to be ironclad in all conditions everywhere. Be willing to adapt when the situation calls for it.


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