Grazing decisions

laura_nash

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Help, I need some advice as I keep dithering :(

I am now fulfilling a long-held dream and have my two ponies at home, having bought a small-holding with 8 acres. Unfortunately its not quite the dream yet, as the horse-related construction work has to take second place to getting a livable house, so at the moment they are basically chucked out in the field and out of work. Ponies are my cob and my daughter's new lead-rein pony. I've always had my cob on livery and even back in the days when I worked with horses rarely got involved in grazing decisions, so this is a bit new to me.

Unfortunately I took my eye off the ball a bit in October (comes of living in a tent with no running water and a 3 year old!) and they both managed to pile on the pounds and are now a bit on the porky side. They've spent Nov and Dec chucked out on 1 acre of stony, rough ground with no rugs or hay (just a handful of fast fibre each a day with a vit/min supplement in). I had hoped this would get the weight off but no such luck, although they have at least not put any more on. Their current field is now very bare and getting quite muddy in places (though parts are bare limestone so can't get really deep). I'm really not sure what to do for the best, my options are:

1. Keep them where they are in order to make them lose some weight. Concern there is obviously how hungry they would get, the stone walls are a bit dubious and they are surrounded by good grazing (mine, but rented to neighbour). I have electric fencing inside the walls but it keeps blowing down (difficult to get fence pegs in with the stones). Also, they are still getting to know each other and do argue more when hungry. I have a bit of hay (made from my own fields!) but hoped to keep that for bad weather.

2. Put them in a nice field (about 1 acre) with good walls, automatic water and some big trees for shelter. If they had lost weight this is what I would do but it is quite good grass, was rented out last few years to local farmer so well-maintained, cut for hay in August and not used since. I don't want to strip graze it too strictly as I'm planning to ride in it next year (nice flat field) so don't want it churned up.

3. Put them in small rubbish field, where we have located our muck heap, compost heap, pile of old thatch and straw from barn etc. Can fence off these bits but my cob does have ROA so I'm a bit worried about this. Hasn't been touched for a year so long grass but not good (full of thistles).

4. Put them in big field (about 3 acres) next to house. I had intended this for the winter grazing, it is unimproved with lots of stone, but it has a stand of sycamore trees opposite and was full of seeds a few months ago. Also, a neighbour grazed his Connemara broodmare on part of it until last month (pre-arranged before we bought it, and she didn't get AM thankfully). He doesn't poo pick and worms once a year with the same (ivermectin) wormer so I'm a bit concerned about worms.

Sorry it turned into an essay, any views or suggestions very gratefully received.
 

laura_nash

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Thanks Cortez. That's what I think when I'm sat at home thinking about it, then I get to the field and see them in a muddy bare patch when I have masses of grazing and start to doubt!
 

Leo Walker

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if they arent losing weight, then they are clearly eating something :) The grass this year has been wild! Sometimes fields look bare, but thats because the horses are eating it as quickly as it comes through. What about something like hay pillows so you know they are getting something but they have to work for it?
 

laura_nash

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Yes, they are obviously finding something to eat :) Plus, they have escaped about once a week onto the good grazing for a few hours which probably isn't helping. The problem with hay pillows is the hay, I have 40 bales to last the winter and really don't want to buy more if I can avoid it. I was planning to save them for any bad weather like snow and for when I bring them into the hay barn (so far twice since we got here, for gales).
 

Nudibranch

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I wouldn't worry about the hay store! Last year we got through 5 small wrapped bales of haylage, the year before 15 small bales of hay. This year so far I've used 5 small ones and only because they've come in a few nights as one had mud fever. This is for a 16.2 and a 17hh, so your 40 bales should be plenty :)
These last few winters have been so mild and the grass is having a very long growing season.
 
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If you are concerned that thy will be hungry/develop ulcers from not having enough to eat, you could put good quality oat straw out for them to nibble on. If they leave it, you will know that they were not hungry.
 

laura_nash

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Thanks Pearlsacarolsinger, that's a great idea. I did discuss getting some small bale oat straw with a neighbour when we first moved here and he said he had some if I wanted to buy it. This was in the summer when neighbours were always walking past the gate and stopping for a chat (we had some days it was difficult to get any work done we had so many people welcoming us to the area or telling us the complete history of our house, it was amazing!). I had forgotten all about it and haven't seen him for a bit, I will have to pop around and follow up on it.
 
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