Improving pasture management for horses

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2007: $60,210.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Rachel Gilker
UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial), hay


  • Animal Production: pasture fertility, pasture renovation, feed/forage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, technical assistance
  • Natural Resources/Environment: soil stabilization
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    Vermont has more than 35,000 horses, many of which are located on small acreage. Through several years of workshops and farm visits, we have observed that horse paddocks are often overgrazed. This results in a weedy pasture, containing poor quality forage and muddy, compacted high traffic areas, which may lead to potential, avoidable, contribution of phosphorus to shallow groundwater. Horse owners do not necessarily have the background knowledge or training of other livestock producers, where pasture serves as a calculated contribution to feed intake. Agricultural service providers we have worked with admit to lacking experience and information to provide grazing management answers to horse-specific questions. This project will provide agricultural professionals and horse owners with support and education on horse pasture management. High traffic areas at equine boarding stables will be renovated, and photographs will be taken throughout the grazing season to document the differences in pasture quality in both renovated and un-renovated areas. The study will help demonstrate the benefits from renovated high traffic areas to equine health and safety as well as environmental quality. Workshops and publications resulting from these demonstrations will be tools to disseminate the results to service providers and horse managers. We will host facilitated learning opportunities where grazing planning and methods are demonstrated, explained, and explored. By studying the impacts and providing compelling evidence for proper pasture management along with tools for and methods to improve pasture management systems, this project will help more than 75 horse owners and managers make positive changes in their horse pasture using appropriate grazing management methods.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    More than 1,000 people will be reached through publications, publicity, mailings and workshops. Of 70 horse owners and stable operators attending workshops, more than half will make changes to pasture management resulting in improved forage quality and reduced environmental degradation. Twenty agricultural professionals will feel able to support horse owners’ pasture management needs.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.