There is not a lot you can do to maintain an enclosure for your horses in the winter, but by the time it turns to spring, you should be thinking about the coming tasks for the year ahead. All being well, your horses will have somewhere suitable to last them from the late autumn until springtime the following year. I have found that these tips are just as useful for paddocks that are used for horses during the daytime only as they are for ones which are the horses’ permanent home. Either way, a paddock provides the same sort of function – it is somewhere your livestock can graze, get exercise and toilet themselves. What are the jobs you should be thinking about from around March?
Any land that is devoted to pasture needs soil which is of a high quality so that the horses’ food can continue to grow. Therefore, the first thing to do each year is to analyse your soil and ensure that it is sufficiently full of nutrients. Checking the PH level is also a good idea. This way, you can work out how much fertilizing/spreading is required and what sort of products to apply. Sprayers tend to be the best way of fertilizing the soil and they can also be used for weed control, too. In fact, sprayers tend to make the most sense for treating just a patch of the pasture, for example, if it has become overrun with weeds that are not good for horses, like buttercups.
Once your soil has been improved and your weed control processes are up and running, look to begin aerating your earth which will promote the growth of what horses really like – grass. Raking is a good first step, but heavier clay soils may need more. In addition to raking, harrowing allows more air to get into the soil. Harrowing makes your soil more attractive to worms which help to do the job of aerating naturally. If you decide to reseed for more grass to grow, then rolling will help the seedlings to take root and this is a good job for late spring before the growing season begins in earnest. Rolling is also a good thing to do to simply because it has a levelling effect on the paddock. Levelling makes it more pleasant for the horses who will walk over it. Do this before it gets too hot and the ground dries out.
In my experience, many people with paddocks set aside an area of theirs to grow hay for winter feed. When the summer is upon us, cutting with a scythe is a satisfying way to cut your long grass to turn into hay bales for the coming seasons. Mowing with a sit-on mower is just as effective. Why do it any other way – unless you want the exercise, that is? Mowing early in the summer means potentially being able to grow more hay in late summer, although this is weather dependent. Reseed the area in August and at least it will be ready for next year if you don’t get a second crop.
Maintenance does not stop in late September. Over the course of the summer, mucking out of stables and of the paddocks means you will have built up a considerable amount of manure. Although the manure from mucking out may be good for your garden’s roses, it won’t be great for a paddock because its nutrients have been drawn from the soil it came from. Therefore, poo picking is essential for the maintenance regime of any pasture land. By poo picking, you will actually improve the quality of the soil and help the horses to remain healthy. Once completed, test your soil again ready for the winter and to repeat the entire process next year.
We are here for your paddock needs, if you can’t manage it yourself, however, give me a call on 01664 900044.