horse pasture

Asked September 14, 2013, 5:25 PM EDT

My horse pastures have been over grazed due to poor management on my part. I need to re-seed and try to start over, but I don't even know where to start or what type of seed to use. I have 2 horses (1 is a draft horse) and a mini donkey. The land seems to be very hard, barren at places, and I don't see any new grass growing (I haven't re-seeded since we moved here a year ago). Any suggests for what to do to prep the ground and/or what type of seed to use for best results for horse grazing grass? Any help is appreciated.

Berks County Pennsylvania

1 Response

Please call our office we have a progam in your area about pasture management, see my contact info at the bottom of this article.

List of Things You Can Do This Fall To Keep Your Pastures Healthy, and Ready For Next Season

Rest The Pasture

  • If you have a pasture that is over-grazed, rest it for the remainder of the year. This will give the grass a chance to store up nutrients for next year, so the pasture will be healthier in the spring.
  • Keeping horses on the same pasture over winter causes damage to plants. So, keep horses in a sacrifice lot where they have access to hay, water and shelter.

Seeding Pasture Grasses

  • August 15th to September 15th are the best time of year to see or reseed your pastures (usually adequate moisture, less weed competition, and cool, desirable weather conditions).
  • Common grass species used are Timothy, Orchard Grass, and Smooth Brome.
  • Turf-type lawn grasses like Kentucky bluegrass can be used for higher traffic areas and serve as a good base for your pasture.
  • If you missed this window of opportunity then you can start thinking of frost seeding about the end of winter or early spring.

Plan now for frost seeding pastures

If you intend to frost seed or inter-seed pastures in early spring, start your plans now. Start in the fall by weakening the existing stand (by overgrazing) to allow the frost seeded species to reach the soil and to make the new seedlings more competitive in the spring.

Take Soil Samples

Take the guess work out; see if your pastures need any nutrients. Anytime from now until the ground freezes is a good time to take samples because the soils are drier and easy to sample. Contact your county Extension office or the Penn State University Agricultural Analytical Services Laboratory for a sample kit. The lab's web site is


Use compost or a commercial fertilizer and drag manure piles in your pasture. As stated above, test your soils first so you know how much you need. Often, only nitrogen is needed in pastures since manure provides quite a bit of phosphorus and potassium. Our soils tend to require lime to increase the PH check your soil test for lime requirements.

Weed Control

To control perennial weeds with an herbicide, fall is the time.
  • Perennial plants are storing nutrients for winter in their roots. As the nutrients go into the roots, so will the herbicide, giving the best change for a successful kill.
  • It is best to have mowed the perennials though out the summer so they are not so mature. Herbicides usually work best on re-growth or plants that are 4-8 in height.
  • Mowing 3 to 4 times though out the year will help keep all weeds in check, but never mow your pasture shorter than 4.
  • For more information

Follow Your Manure Management Plan and Dispose of Manure

If you are going to fertilize your pastures with manure, sample the manure first so you know how much you should spread.
  • Contact the Penn State University, Analytical Services Laboratory for a sample manure or compost kit.
  • Only spread manure on your pastures if you have somewhere else to move the horses. Remember, spreading additional manure on your pasture can result in greater chances of parasite exposure.
  • Try to remove manure pile once a year (actually its required by the PA DEP).
  • Develop a plan to spread it on your pasture, or hire a local farmer or landscaper to remove the manure.
  • Remember to do your farms Manure Management Plan it is now a state regulation. The document can be found at This site will provide all the regulations, instructions and a work book to guide you in writing your plan.

Check all Fences

Make sure all fences are in good shape before the wind and snow flies. Pay special attention to temporary electric fence (ribbons, wires and string) and replace any broken posts before they are frozen into the ground then they cannot be fixed.

Take Horse Off Pastures During Early Frosts

Frosted grass can cause digestive up-sets to horses. In addition, hoof traffic after a frost can damage grasses. Make sure the sacrifice lot areas set up for the horses, to hold them until the grass thaws for the day.

Hay, Feed and Bedding Storage

Make sure your storage areas are free from leaks and rodents. Try and have supplies in storage before the heavy snows make it difficult to deliver supplies.


  • Remember, heavy overgrazing of pastures in the fall can negatively influence stored root food reserves and contribute to poor winter survival.
  • Six weeks are needed for forages to regrow and store the necessary food reserves for winter survival prior to a hard freeze that kills the shoots and stops food root reserve accumulation.
  • So good pasture management in the fall can have a big impact on the success of your pastures next spring.


Contact Information

Ann Swinker
Extension Horse Specialist