It has not been an easy winter and you are certainly not the only horse owner tearing your hair out about poor ground conditions and a lack of turnout.
Follow these tip for good paddock management:
1 Year-round maintenance: the more you look after your paddocks the more you will get out of them. Don’t wait until they look like the Somme before you do anything
2 Avoid overgrazing: easier said than done if you are running a yard of horses. However, “it depletes the grass growth as it doesn’t have the energy to regrow. You will also get patches of soil, which encourages weeds,” says Lois Philipps.
3 Harrowing or scarifying: this is an excellent way to promote new grass growth for the spring and summer. It pulls out the dead matter and allows air to circulate into the soil’s surface. This creates the anaerobic conditions needed for the production of nitrates — the form of nitrogen most easily taken up by plants.
4 Rolling: necessary to restore paddocks that have taken a hammering over the winter. Timing is crucial, as you need the ground not too wet but not too dry. If you roll a field when it is too wet, the soil may be compacted, which restricts and slows grass growth. Too dry and nothing will happen.
5 Fertilising: it is necessary to provide good conditions for the grass to grow. It is important to replace nutrients lost through grazing, hay crops etc.
6 Reseeding: check gateways and fence lines as they can become particularly poached.
This was first published as part of our new series “Ask H&H”, where we solve your equestrian-related problems. To read the full article see this week’s issue of H&H (9 May 2013)