Horses Care

Paddocks like horses and people need some basic ingredients to be motivated to flourish. These are sunlight, water, nutrients or food and air. Simple and this is where the article could end, but it is getting the balance right for your paddock and the type of ground you have below the grass.

Planning and motivation is the key to producing the right paddock for you and your horse or horses. The idea of harrowing, rolling, aerating, spreading a bit of fertiliser, reseeding, the odd weed control treatment when they become large enough to be a nuisance and topping if the grass gets too long or your horse get laminitis, are fine if at the right time. Proactive rather than reactive response is the key. Your paddock is as valuable and important as the horses you put on it so get out and have a look at it.


As the ground starts to dry, now is the time to fertilise, aerate, spray, roll and harrow depending on soil type. Spring is the busy time to reap the benefits later in the year.

Aeration of the soil is the process of slitting or cutting. As each tine enters the ground, it breaks through the surface capping and penetrates to a depth of approx 100mm thereby fracturing and breaking through any sub surface pan.

This rectifies treading by horses, which indirectly damages plants through poaching and soil compaction. Plants depend on their root system to access a balanced range of essential nutrients and micro nutrients which are only available in a living soil with a population of worms, fungi, bacteria and microbes all working in unison. Reducing subsurface compaction is a fundamental step towards creating the ideal environment for root systems to explore the soil mass and source nutrients. It also allows oxygen into the soil, surface water to drain through the structure and any applied or natural nutrients to find their way down to the root zone.

Early in the season is the time to use one of the many different fertilisers, organic compounds or artificial if preferred. Why? Grass needs a feed at least once a year if you have practiced good dung removal to reduce the potential worm burden, the grass has been living on small amounts of nutrient that are stored naturally in the soil. The reason it is important now ,is that the T-sum (Calculation used to access the optimum time at which grass is receptive to fertiliser) has usually reached 200 and this is the best time for the grass to receive a feed.

Spring Tine Harrowing has several key beneficial properties and is one of the essential parts of grassland maintenance regimes. It removes the dead grass, smoothes out winter hoof marks (poaching), remove moss and small weed seedlings before the season starts and gives the grass the best start without too much competition. This process helps the grass that you have to access the air, nutrients and water, whilst allowing excess water to run off the surface rather than stagnate or puddle in old vegetation or poaching marks.

If you have suffered from Ragwort in the previous season any new growth will be at its most vulnerable rosette stage i.e. young and developing as with most weeds so treatment is most effective at this vulnerable stage. With Ragwort, thistles, nettles and docks the rough rule to beat them is “hard for horses to eat easy to defeat.”

If the ground is dry enough rolling can be done in April. Although this will level out unevenness caused by poaching and will firm up the ground so reducing hoof damage it does compact the soil rather than aeration so causing capping and poaching in wet weather. Farmers roll the crowns of grass to crush them so encouraging tillering or 'spreading' of the grass and so maximises spring growth.  If the grass cover is patchy with areas of bare earth, you may wish to consider reseeding. Apply a proprietary paddock mix and remove horses until the grass is established. 

March for buttercups and April/May is time to identify other weed problem and treat any significant infestations. Most chemicals are very ineffective on buttercups once in flower so get them early


The time for Hay making so any weeds that have persisted such as Ragwort should be pulled before cutting commences. Spraying if needed to reduce weed infestation, the application of fertiliser after hay making to encourage autumn growth.

If not making hay then topping the grazing paddocks is a good way to prevent Ragwort and other weeds from going to seed. Any re-growth can be easily spotted and treated. Topping also removes any stalky unpalatable grass and allows fresh new grass to take over for the autumn period rather than going to seed. It will encourage new growth of established ragwort, nettles, thistles, docks, etc. which can then be treated with a herbicide.  A knapsack sprayer can apply such products if you own one or for larger areas ATV spraying applied by a contractor.

It is also a good time to look at fences that need to be repaired and trees that need attention with broken branches or dead wooding to reduce possible accident to your horses as the paddocks are still firm enough for contractors equipment to access the paddock with minimal damage to the grass.


As grass growth slows an application of fertiliser will give a sustained release of Nitrogen over 6-8 weeks, so keeping the sward in good condition in order to reduce die back in the winter. This can be a very cost effective application providing grazing over an extended period. In addition, a denser sward at this time will help to reduce the poaching effect if horses are out in the winter so leaving the paddock in a better condition for the following spring.

September is an ideal time to consider rejuvenating your paddocks. If your grasses are looking thin, weedy and not very productive do not use supplementary feeding but consider applying grass seed mixture. 
It is not necessary to start from scratch with the high cost of ploughing and cultivating. The use of Spring Tine Harrows and broadcasting direct on to the paddock is an effective way to establish new grass but the horses will have to be off the paddock until the new sward is established.


Grass is now dormant or minimal growth which highlights ragwort missed during your spring and summer campaigns. This is another good opportunity to take them out very effectively using products such as Barrier H. Don't be tempted to dig them up. If you do not take the entire root, you will make the problem worse because you will encourage several shoots to reappear where there was only one.  Treatment to the rosettes out of season will provide very effective control as the rosettes are small not much product is required for each plant. Other weed problems can be tackled with spot treatment of selective herbicides depending on severity.

For effective paddock maintenance, it is essential to have a strategy of control throughout the year. This takes motivation but to reduce the infestation of weeds, to maximise the growth of grass, relatively cheap natural, wholesome food for your horse, your paddock almost needs as much care as the horse on it and the key is not to relax that grip. 

Following the paddock planning tips will give you an effective management program but if you have any further questions or require any additional information then please contact us.

[Home] [AboutUs] [Contact]