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Hi Cherry,

My name is Kaitlyn and I am trying to decide if my one acre piece of land will be enough for my two horses. I live in Maryland and I have a 6 year old paint and a 18 year old pony. All together they would have about a 1/4 acre a land each. They would only be allowed about 1-2 hours of grass daily and will each have a stall and a sacrifice area for the time that they are not on pasture. They will be ridden daily and will be supplemented with good quality hay and grain. Do you think this would be enough land? What are the minimum space requirements for horses to provide enough room for exercise?

Hi Kaitlyn,

The amount of land isn’t as important as the level of management.

If these horses are ridden daily as you say, what you outline below sounds great. Bravo for thinking ahead and planning the sacrifice pens.

Your challenge will be to manage the land so it doesn’t become overgrazed. It will be tempting for you to let the horses be out more than the pasture can handle.

Cherry Hill's Horsekeeping AlmanacWhat would be ideal is to divide the 1/2 acre into two pieces. Graze the grass when it is 6 inches tall and when 50% of it is 3 inches tall, move the horses over to the other pasture. When a pasture is idle, you can spot mow the weeds – but set your mower on high so it doesn’t mow the grass, just the tall weeds. Because these are small pastures, you could use a walk-behind mower or weed whacker to target just the areas where weeds grow.

As long as these horses are ridden every day or 4-5 times a week, they will have plenty of exercise and when you turn them out, they will likely just put their heads down and eat or perhaps roll in the grass.

Horsekeeping On A Small AcreageBut to answer a little more specifically about acreage, one acre is 43,560 feet. If it was a perfect square it would be about 209 feet on each side. But land parcels are usually rectangular so that is why I used the example in Horsekeeping on a Small Acreage of one acre dimensions of 264 feet by 165 feet.

So if the horse pasture area is half that, or 132 x 165 but you divide that into two smaller pastures for rotational purposes, you’d end up with two pastures of 66 x 165. This is interesting because a dressage arena is 66 feet wide (and either 132 or 198 feet long), so what you have ended up with are two pastures that are the size of a dressage arena for the horses to graze and exercise in. Sweet !

I applaud your efforts to keep your horses (and yourself and your family) on one acre – it take diligence and good management.

Best of luck and keep me posted on how you lay things out.

Cherry Hill

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Those pesky heavy-duty, blood-sucking bombers that line up on a horse’s neck like shingles on a roof…….awfully irritating. We have problems with them here in the Colorado foothills near our creeks and springs for about two weeks this time of year and on trail rides in the timbered areas most of the summer. I’ve seen first hand how they can drive a horse crazy and cause large welts from their painful bites. Read more about horse flies and deer flies at the University of Kentucky site.  

I’ve found that a long-sided fly sheet that has a neck extension used in conjunction with a fly mask with ears and nose shield are a great deterrent to any flies. If you armor your horse like this, the only place you’ll have to spray or apply fly cream is under the jaw, and on the belly and legs.

Unfortunately, as you’ve probably discovered, application of fly products don’t seem to deter horse flies and deer flies for very long. And the fly traps that I talk about in Fly Control are effective for trapping house flies and stable flies but don’t attract horse flies and deer flies.

I’m not aware of any fly predators that target horse fly or deer fly larvae.

There is a trap specifically designed to capture horse flies which you can read about here.

Cherry Hill  horse training and horse care books and videos

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Horse Farm Management – Choosing a Tractor

Whether it is harrowing the arena, mowing weeds or moving hay, I love to operate my 60 horsepower 4WD utility tractor (To get an idea of the size of a utility tractor, that’s me mowing with it on the cover of the book at the end of this post). It is a real workhorse and has guts when I need it.

Whether you have one acre or one hundred, you probably need a tractor or ATV, some implements, a truck and a trailer.


Equipping Your Horse Farm by Cherry Hill and Richard Klimesh

TRACTOR SIZE

Excerpt from Equipping Your Horse Farm

Tractors are generally grouped into four categories as dictated by size, weight, horsepower (see various horsepower designations below), and suitability for purpose. If only manufacturers would agree on the size classifications. One tractor manufacturer calls their compact tractor a utility tractor and one calls their garden tractors compact tractors. But for purposed of discussion, I’m dividing tractors into four groups and further subdividing two of the groups.

You might find that you want to purchase an All Purpose Vehicle (APV) instead of or in addition to a tractor. Read Chapter 7 in Equipping Your Horse Farm to learn how APVs differ from tractors. Many of the features and implement are similar, so even if you are not considering an APV, you’ll find lots of useful information there.

The main tractor groups are:
  • Lawn and Garden
  • Compact
  • Utility
  • Farm

Lawn and garden tractor.

(Up to 25 Horsepower; 1-2 cylinder gas engine or 2-3 cylinder diesel engine; weight approximately 500-1200 pounds)

This group can be subdivided into lawn tractors and garden tractors.

A lawn tractor is designed for mowing lawns. It has tires that minimize footprints (tracks) on lawns, a 2-3 gallon fuel tank, might have an electric Power Take Off (PTO explained later) but no or few attachments.

A garden tractor has tires with good traction for working in a garden, a 5-6 gallon fuel tank, a PTO (some are electric powered, some engine powered) with a hydraulic clutch, and some offer 4WD. Depending on the brand, garden tractors can be used with a full line of compatible attachments such as: dump cart, trailer, tiller, broadcast spreader, snow thrower, blade, roller, sprayer, spike aerator, disk, plow, cultivator and rotary broom.

A lawn or garden tractor is handy for driving through barn alleyways and pens or for pulling a small manure or feed cart. It would be unsuitable, however, for routine fieldwork, arena work, or large-scale feeding or manure handling. Lawn tractors can be an expensive option for horsemen – by the time you buy a tractor, a cart, and other attachments, you might have reached the same price range as a compact tractor. You could end up with half the tractor for the same price. You might want to consider purchasing a lawn tractor for light duty or barn work if you are planning to buy two tractors.

Compact tractor.

(Approximately 25 to 45 Horsepower; 2-4 cylinder diesel; 1400-2000#; category 1 or 2 hitch). This category is often broken into two subcategories: sub-compact and compact. Sometimes tractors in this category are also called a mid-size or acreage tractor; they are convenient, easy-to-operate tractors. Since they are not very tall, they are pretty easy to mount. The hitch is low to the ground, making attachment of implements convenient yet with compacts there is greater ground clearance (12 inches or more) than with garden tractors or sub-compacts. Generally, these are good tractors for teenagers to learn on.

Sub-compacts are available as low as 15 hp and up to 25 hp (10-16 PTO hp) with 2-3 cylinder diesel engines. What make these different from garden tractors are features, style and the fact that they are only available with diesel engines. Some are available with 4WD, 3 point hitches, loader and beefier implement choices. They have 6-8 gallon fuel tanks.

Compact tractors will usually have 3-4 cylinder diesel engines with up to 45 horsepower and use category 1 or 2 equipment (see hitches later in this chapter). They are good for all-around small acreage chores, but they are limited to the size of the attachments that can be used with them. They can pull about an 8-foot pull-type disc or a 6-foot three-point disc. They work well with a small manure spreader, especially the friction-drive type (see manure spreaders in Chapter 6). With a front-end loader or a 6-foot blade on the back, a mid-size tractor can work well for cleaning out pens and runs.

Older tractors in this category are the equivalent of the gasoline engine 8N Ford which was known as the estate tractor when it was manufactured (1939 to 1952). As a thumb rule, you can probably find a fairly decent older used gas tractor in this category in running order for approximately $2,000. There weren’t a lot of mid-size tractors manufactured through the late fifties up to the seventies, so the vast majority of used tractors in this size are at least twenty-five years old.

Since the late 1970s, most compact tractors are Japanese-made, many of them four-wheel-drive. They go for $10,000 new and for $5,000 to $6,000 used.

Utility tractor.

(Approximately 45 to 85 horsepower; 3-5 cylinder diesel engine; 1500-3000#; Category 2 hitch). These are taller, more powerful tractors, able to operate more heavy-duty equipment such as a post hole digger or a large loader, to scoop or push deep snow. They have a 20-30 gallon fuel tank. If you have a large arena and want to use a disc with two 8-foot sections, you will want to consider a utility tractor. If you need to handle large amounts of manure and you use a heavy-duty PTO-driven spreader, you will need a tractor of this size. Depending on economics at the time you are ready to purchase, you may well find a utility tractor for the same price that you would pay for a compact tractor. All other things being equal, if you think you might need the extra power, buy the larger tractor.

Farm tractor.

(Over 85 hp and up to 450 hp; 4-6 cylinder diesel engine; 2500-6000# and more; Category 2, 3, 3N, 4, or 4N hitch). Generally these tractors are designed for commercial farming so are bigger, more powerful, and have many features. There often have multiple hydraulic hookups and PTOs – at the rear, front and side. The transmission could have as many as 24 forward and 24 reverse gears with on-the-go 4WD. They can sport a fuel tank as large as 300 gallons. The tires are much bigger, so the trip to the cab often takes 2 or 3 steps, but the climb is well worth it. Large tractor cabs often have all the comforts of home: a plush, power seat with multiple adjustments, heat and air conditioning, sound system, tilt steering wheel, GPS system and more. Cabs on new tractors will be ROPS certified but on older models, not necessarily so. New cabs are well sealed to keep out the dirt, dust and fumes. Farm tractors without cabs might have foldable ROPS to allow parking under a lower roof.

Equipping Your Horse Farm by Cherry Hill and Richard Klimesh

Equipping Your Horse Farm by Cherry Hill and Richard Klimesh

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Tree Management

Mountain Pine Beetle

©  2010 Cherry Hill © Copyright Information

We horsekeepers must be good stewards of the land. Besides pasture management, we must also keep on top of brush and tree management.

The Mountain Pine Beetle has been a big problem in Colorado and Wyoming over the last 10 years or so but so far we have been lucky and the vast majority of the  Ponderosa Pines and other evergreens on our property are still green and healthy.

But last June (2009) during one of those wild Rocky Mountain thunderstorms, we heard a loud crack and wondered what was hit. The next day we found that one of the Ponderosa Pines in our upper pasture had taken a direct lightning hit and the bark was blown off the tree in a spiral.

Ponderosa Pine Hit by Lightning

Ponderosa Pine Hit by Lightning

It didn’t take the pine beetles long to find the distressed tree. They moved into the portion of the bark that was still attached and by this spring (2010) the tree was dead.

Pine Beetle Killed Tree

Pine Beetle Killed Tree

Pine Beetle Larva

Pine Beetle Larva

Pine Beetle Pitch Tubes

Pine Beetle Pitch Tubes

We contacted our local forester and he advised us to cut the tree down as soon as possible and treat the tree so that the beetles wouldn’t emerge this July or August and infest other trees.

There are a variety of methods of treatment including various forms of solar treatment which includes laying the diseased portions face up toward the sun, either with bark on or removed, and with or without the use of a plastic cover. There is much information on the Colorado State University website.

The End

The End

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Our grass is maturing and our horses are getting used to grazing at least an hour a day. Our goal is to be able to turn the horses out overnight for an 8 hour graze. When a horse spends any time on pasture whether for grazing or turnout, there are certain things we as managers should pay attention to so that our horses are safe and healthy.

Horse Management – Pasture Life

Part of the dream of having a horse is the visual satisfaction of seeing a horse peacefully grazing on a well-maintained pasture at your home. Pasturing a horse might be the most natural way to keep a horse, but unfortunately, it is out of reach for many and can be far from ideal from a horse’s viewpoint. For the best chance for success, start with a good pasture.

A good pasture has a stand of plants suitable for horses. The best kind of horse pasture is a well-drained grass mix with few weeds and NO poisonous weeds, trees or shrubs. If there is a good grass stand established, you have decent rainfall or access to irrigation, and you mow, harrow and reseed as necessary, you should be able to keep one horse on 2 acres of pasture during the growing season. However, arid ranchland with minimal browse plants can require 20 acres or more to support a single horse. To get a better idea of the specific stocking rate for your property, contact your county extension agent.

A pasture needs to be enclosed with safe fencing and gates. Pasture fences and gates should be at least 5 feet tall and well maintained to maximize the horses’ safety and minimize the liability of loose horses on public or private property. Using electric fencing in conjunction with conventional fencing decreases the wear and tear on fences and adds to security as long as the electric fence is checked daily to be sure it is working.

There should be no old dumps or farm equipment in a pasture; horses can easily get hurt on items hidden by tall grass.

There should be easy and safe access to free choice, good quality water. Natural sources should be running, not stagnant. Know the source of the water your horse drinks. If it contains agricultural runoff, it could be high in nitrates. A trough or automatic waterer should be kept clean and situated to minimize mud and to prevent a horse from being crowded into a corner or against a fence.

Pastures should be well drained with no bogs or stagnant water and preferably the soil should not be not sandy.

The pasture should provide shelter – either natural (trees, rocks or terrain) or man-made (shed or windbreak) to ward off sun, wind, cold precipitation, and insects.

There should be free choice salt and mineral blocks at all times.

Pros and cons of pasture life. See the book Horsekeeping on a Small Acreage.

Horsekeeping on a Small Acreage by Cherry Hill

Horsekeeping on a Small Acreage by Cherry Hill

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Horse Management:

Keeping a Horse in a Pen or a Run

©  2010 Cherry Hill © Copyright Information

Just when we were getting the horses used to some grazing, we got some crazy weather that dumped a lot of rain on us. Being that this is a semi-arid area with between 15-17 inches of moisture per year, we are ALWAYS glad of any rain or snow. However, because of the low annual moisture, our pastures are very fragile and it would take them a lot of time to recover from hoof damage during muddy weather or “whole plant grazing”. That’s often what happens when it is wet here – the horse takes a bite and instead of the grass breaking off, the horse pulls the whole plant out, roots and all.  I think of how long it took that grass plant to establish and survive over the weeds yet in one casual nip, its gone. That’s a bad thing !

So to be the best stewards of the horse AND the land that we can be, when it is muddy, like it is today, the horses must stay in their large sheltered pens. They are often called “sacrifice pens” because the pasture that once was where the pens are now has been sacrificed – there is no vegetation.

Keeping a horse in a large pen or run is often a necessity so here are some guidelines about pen life for horses.

Horsekeeping on a Small Acreage by Cherry Hill

Keeping a Horse in a Pen or Run

When you want your horse to have some room to move around but you don’t have access to a pasture, a good set up can be a group pen or individual run. These are usually located adjacent to a barn or other covered shelter and can vary in size from a bare minimum of 16’ x 60’ individual run off a stall to a 60’ x 100’ or larger pen off the end of a barn or loafing shed for a group of horses.

A good pen has safe, durable fencing and comfortable, well-draining footing. The pen should be located on high ground and be situated such that the horses can take shelter from cold wind, wet weather, hot sun and insects as needed. There should be a clean place to feed and a comfortable place for horses to lie down. To prevent feed from blowing away, windscreens can be attached to the outside of the panels.

The land in pens and runs is considered “sacrifice” because no vegetation is expected to survive the constant traffic. If the natural lay of the land doesn’t slope away from the barn or shed, then excavation should remedy this so that the shelter under the building is high and dry and the pen or run gradually slopes, about 2 degrees, away from the building.

Depending on the native soil, footing can be added to provide cushion and minimize mud. Some choices are decomposed granite, road base, and pea gravel.

A sheltered feeding area with rubber mats allows a horse to eat off ground level without ingesting sand or wasting feed.

In the loafing area of the pen, bedding can be used to encourage a horse to lie down but it usually invites a horse to defecate and urinate there also. This behavior can be minimized or eliminated by locking a horse out of the loafing or eating areas except during specific times.

Pen fencing can be made from metal panels or continuous fencing. Panels don’t require setting posts so are more adaptable to changing pen size or shape. Whatever pen fencing is used, it needs to be tall enough (5’ is OK, 6’ is better) and strong enough to withstand roughhousing, rubbing, and playing across the fence. Panel connections should be tight and safe.

Pros and cons of pen life. See the book Horsekeeping on a Small Acreage.

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