Creating a Pasture with Varied Plant Species

One of the most interesting “new” concepts to me is the growing interest in have a multi-species pasture for all types of livestock.

Just as people tend to think inside the box when creating pastures or paddock space we have also been a little guilty of looking at the composition of our pastures on a limited basis. Many times there will be a standard pasture mix available from our local seed supplier that contains some proportional mix of  a variety of grass seeds but this mix may not be the optimal one for our soil type or the needs of our horses.

The idea of a broader combination of grasses, legumes and herbs is gaining in popularity for horse pastures. It is an idea that has been popular in Europe for over a decade but has not been pursued to a great extent in this country. It can be difficult for those of us who are not natural “plant” people to do the background work that allows us to bring this idea to fruition. But it will pay off in better soil and horse health.

The variation in the types of plants allows a variety of root systems to take hold in the soil which in turn helps prevent erosion. A variety of optimum plant growing seasons may also create a pasture that has some ground cover throughout the year. Here in Maryland we are just set to embark on establishing a couple of experimental plots tests out different combinations especially geared to each individual owner’s requirements.

It can seem daunting at first to start thinking about what each blade of grass is doing in your field. But you can come to a workable solution. Trust me if I can do it ( my extension agent ex-husband once referred to me as the holocaust gardener), you can do it as well. There is plenty of help out there.. much of it free in the guise of your local extension or soil conservation district but also many independent contractors who are willing to offer expertise. And in today’s world they don’t even have to be on the same continent.

This website has some good information to get you started:

http://www.succeed-equine.com/succeed-blog/2012/11/07/pasture-management-for-healthy-horses-part-1-get-the-right-mix-of-grasses-for-optimal-nutrition/

This one also offers some excellent educational opportunities:

http://simplesoilsolutions.com/

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Shelly Ingram

I am a third generation horsewoman; My father operated a 50 horse boarding and training facility in northern California, where he specialized in re-training spoiled horses. I was his demonstration rider and general assistant in all aspects of running the ranch. I went on to work for several major show and race horse trainers, eventually opening my own barn where I focused on Junior and Amateur riders. I have trained numerous champion horses and riders on all levels and in variety of disciplines. I have also worked as a journalist and have more than a decade of experience in land use planning.

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