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How Much Paddock Pasture Do You Need to Keep a Horse?

Sep 08, 2023

Author: Lisa Smith

If you're pondering over the idea of keeping a horse in New Zealand, one of the foremost questions on your mind is likely to be: 'how much paddock pasture does my horse really need?' Read our comprehensive guide below tailored for New Zealand's unique conditions.

1. Size of the Paddock

Horses, being grazing animals, require ample space not just for movement, but also for their dietary needs. Generally, the recommended space for one horse is between .5 to 1 hectares (1 to 2 acres) of good-quality pasture and an additional .5 hectares (1 acre) for every additional horse. However, the exact space depends on:

  • The quality of the pasture and its location.
  • Rainfall in the location and the amount required to sustain grass growth year round.
  • The breed, size, and activity level of the horse.
  • Whether you'll be supplementing with additional feed.

Reference: NZ Horse & Pony Magazine

2. Best Types of Grass for Horses in NZ

New Zealand’s climate is ideal for a plethora of pasture grasses. A few top choices include:

  • Ryegrass: High in sugars but excellent for energetic horses.
  • Tall Fescue: Hardier in cooler regions and drought-resistant.
  • Cocksfoot: Palatable and suitable for dry conditions.
  • White Clover: Rich in protein, but should be mixed with other grasses to avoid bloating.

Reference: Dairy NZ Pasture Types

3. Fertilisers: Feeding the Soil to Feed the Horse

Adequate fertilisation ensures the grass retains its nutritional value. Use natural, organic fertilisers over chemical ones to prevent any potential toxins from entering the horse's system. Consider:

  • Seaweed-based fertilisers: Boosts soil health and promotes robust grass growth.
  • Sheep pellets: Natural and packed with nutrients.
  • Regular soil tests to identify specific needs.

Reference: Fertiliser Association of New Zealand

4. Beware of These Weeds!

Certain weeds can be harmful, even fatal, to horses. Keep an eye out for:

  • Ragwort: Known to cause liver damage.
  • Foxglove: Contains toxins affecting the heart.
  • Hemlock: Extremely poisonous in even small quantities.

Regularly inspect paddocks and remove harmful weeds.

Reference: Landcare Research NZ

5. Supplemental Feeds

In periods of drought or during winters, pasture might not be enough. Consider these supplements:

  • Hay: Often the first choice; can be lucerne, meadow, or oaten.
  • Horse pellets: Ensure they are of high quality and suited for the horse's specific needs.
  • Grains: Like oats or barley, but only in controlled amounts as they're energy-dense.

Reference: NZ Horse & Pony Magazine

6. Provide Good Shelter

Providing good shelter for your horse(s) is beneficial for a variety of reasons mainly:

  • Weather Protection: New Zealand's climate is known for its variability. Parts of the country can experience heavy rainfall, strong winds, and even snow in the winter. A shelter provides horses protection from these harsh weather conditions, ensuring they remain comfortable and healthy.
  • Sun Protection: In the summer, our NZ sun can be intense. A shelter provides shade, protecting horses from excessive sunlight and helping prevent conditions like sunburn, especially in horses with pink skin or lighter coloured coats.
  • Temperature Regulation: Just as shelters provide shade in summer, they also offer warmth in winter. By shielding horses from the cold wind and rain, a shelter helps horses maintain body temperature. This is especially important for older horses, young foals, or horses that are unwell.

It's worth noting that while shelters are essential, they should be complemented with regular checks on the horses. Outpost Buildings has a range of horse shelters and stables ideally suited to lifestyle property and small block owners. Conveniently these shelters are shipped NZ wide and in a flat pack kitset format. See our range of horse stables and shelters.


In Summary

While New Zealand offers a fantastic environment for raising horses, ensuring your horse gets the best means being well-informed and proactive in your pasture management. Regularly inspect your paddocks, ensure your grass type is suitable, keep harmful weeds at bay, provide supplemental feeds when necessary and ensure that suitable shelter is provided.

Please note that the references provided are for informative purposes. It's crucial to consult with local experts or veterinarians for specifics regarding your horse's needs.



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