Managing your grazing spaces can be a tricky balancing act in spring. Certain horses may need to be kept off lush grass for fear of laminitis, while others can take full advantage of the grazing options. What’s more, some properties aren’t large enough to support constant grazing without stressing the pasture grasses. A good solution for these problems is electric fencing---wires, tapes or braids---that you can move as needed.
If you need to keep a horse off of new-growth pasture, fence off a “sacrifice” area and allow other horses to graze it down. When the pasture is no longer lush, place the at-risk horse in the space. By using movable electric fencing, you can maintain the sacrifice pasture for the entire season or only until the threat of laminitis has passed. Your veterinarian can help you determine which tactic is best for the individual horses you are trying to protect.
If you keep your herd on a small acreage---less than an acre per horse---consider using electric fencing to divide your available pasture into three or four smaller spaces. Allow your horses to graze one area for a week or two, then move them to another before the grass is grazed to below four inches tall. As the horses graze the new area, the recently used space has a chance to recover. By the time you rotate the herd back to the original area, that grass should be ready for grazing again. Continue this system and you can allow ample grazing throughout the year without damaging your pastures.
To safely use movable electric fencing, make sure it’s installed correctly, with the wire, tape or braid strung at the proper tension and posts sunk properly and capped if necessary. You’ll also want to make sure the fence is properly charged and grounded and then check regularly for outages, especially after storms. Many horses learn to “test” an electric fence and will take advantage of power failures or forgetful caretakers who don’t check the charge themselves. If you are unsure of how to install or use electric fencing, ask for help from the manufacturer of your fence or your local extension agent.
This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #461, March 2016.