Pasture Management in Drought Conditions

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Pasture Management in Drought Conditions

Pasture management is a key part of basic horse husbandry. Horses have evolved to graze for up to 20 hours per day. In ideal conditions, a suitably sized paddock should be enough to make up the majority of your horse’s daily food intake.

In reality, especially in these dry times, nutritious grass can be rare. Poor soil quality, lack of nutrients in the soil, sparse rainfall and poor pasture management can result in stressed paddocks. When this happens, you will find it necessary to supplement your horse with hay or even hard feed in some cases. This can be expensive and time-consuming.

There are a few ways you can help your pasture management stay functional and provide at least some grass, rather than none.

  • Don’t over-graze your paddocks. Make sure you don’t have too many horses in a small area. Not only can this be stressful for your horses, it can lead to the paddock being stripped bare and turned into a dustbowl very quickly.
  • Rotate paddocks. If you have several large areas, try sectioning them off and rotating the horses weekly or fortnightly in order to let the other sections rest and encourage growth.
  • Manure removal is key. Mass amounts of manure left in the paddock will not fertilise the grass, and can increase worm burden in your horses. It should be picked up weekly at a minimum.
  • Don’t ride in the paddock you’re grazing horses in, if possible. All the movement will tear up the ground and leave bare patches that are hard to bring back.
  • Further to sectioning, fertilise the paddocks not in use. This can encourage grass growth.
  • Make sure weeds are pulled up and burned.
  • Segregate horses that are bullies when it comes to competing for food.
  • Paddocks that are past the point of rotation, you can consider agistment short-term to allow a recovery.


Under drought conditions, it is best to separate grazing horses by age, condition or use. Doing this helps prevent competition for the feed produced, therefore minimising stress. It also ensures optimum outcomes from supplementary feeding. It is best to sacrifice one paddock as a holding area for horses, leaving other paddocks less over-grazed in times of drought.
Even with the persistent drought conditions and slow pasture growth throughout winter, adopting an effective pasture management routine will help to ensure the long-term health of your paddocks and sustain them for the future.

Is Moving An Option?

When agistment elsewhere is an option, give East Coast Horse Transport a call. We can safely deliver your horse to a greener, tastier pasture and bring them home again down the track!

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