How Much Land Do You Need For A Horse? (Solved)

In general, professionals recommend two acres for the first horse and an additional acre for each additional horse (e.g., five acres for four horses). And, of course, more land is always better depending on the foraging quality of your particular property (70% vegetative cover is recommended).

How much space does a horse really need?

  • “According to Washington State University, the minimum recommended space in a dry lot is 400 square feet per horse, though a larger space would be more appropriate,” Kenney said. In small turnout pens it’s critical to pick manure daily, have a well-thought-out manure management plan, and divert clean water away from the dry lots.

How many horses can 1 acre support?

Often, one horse per acre is used as a starting point. In some cases, two acres is recommended for the first horse and one additional acre for each additional horse is suggested to prevent over-grazing of pastures.

How much land do you need to keep a horse?

Minimum Land Requirements The BHS recommends a ratio of one horse per 0.4 – 0.6 hectares on permanent grazing (1- 1.5 acres per horse).

Is half an acre enough for a horse?

If you are attempting to figure the carrying capacity of land for a horse, then a good rule of thumb is 1-1/2 to 2 acres of open intensely managed land per horse. Two acres, if managed properly, should provide adequate forage in the form of pasture and/or hay ground. But this is highly variable depending on location.

How many horses can you legally own?

A maximum of two horses per 20,000 square feet and, in any event, not more than four horses on a lot will be permitted.

Is 5 acres enough for 2 horses?

Yes, five acres is plenty of growing pasture for two horses or more if you take care of it, if that is your intention. Too often I have seen excellent pasture ground become neglected, and ruined.

Can I have a horse on 1 acre?

In general, professionals recommend two acres for the first horse and an additional acre for each additional horse (e.g., five acres for four horses). With excellent management, one horse can live on as little as one mud-free acre.

How many acres of grass does a horse need?

In general, you need 2 to 4 acres per horse if you want them to be out all the time and not overgraze a pasture. Most farm owners don’t have this much space, but with more intensive grazing management, you can maintain horses on fewer acres and still have great pastures.

Can you keep a horse in your backyard?

Yes, you can have a horse on your property. However, having a horse in your courtyard comes with a massive responsibility since you’ll be thinking about pasture, food, and many other things. Additionally, You’ll be required to meet general requirements from the government.

Can you keep a horse on 0.5 acres?

Yes, it would be fine, but as others have said, it will be completely trashed and the owners should be made aware of that before you agree to move on. I currently keep five horses on much less than half an acre. But it is a sand turnout, so does not get trashed.

Can you have a horse on 1 3 acre?

Generally, with excellent management, one horse can be kept on as little as 0.4 hectares (one acre). If running horses together, an owner would be doing exceptionally well to maintain a ratio of one horse per 0.4 hectares (one acre). In a year, a horse will chew through about 11 hectares of pasture.

How many hours a day does a horse need to graze?

It is estimated that a horse spends about 10 to 17 hours each day grazing, and this is broken up into about 15 to 20 grazing periods.

How much is a horse?

To buy a horse, you can expect to pay between $100 – $10,000, depending on the horse breed’s pedigree, how you are planning to use the horse, and your location. The average cost of a hobby-horse is about $3,000. According to Seriously Equestrian, the most expensive horse breeds can cost up to $250,000.

How much land do I need for a horse? – Extension Horses

Only a little amount of study has been conducted on the space needs of horses. It is recommended that you allow 1-1/2 to 2 acres of open intensively maintained land per horse if you are seeking to determine the carrying capacity of land for horses. The feed provided by two acres should be sufficient in the form of pasture and/or hay ground, assuming the land is maintained appropriately. However, this is very varied depending on where you live. If you are primarily reliant on the land for exercise rather than nutritional requirements (for example, if your horse receives hay every day), a smaller area may be sufficient.

In the Eastern portions of the nation, on well maintained pasture, 2 acres will provide enough food for a horse’s nutritional requirements.

In the Midwest region of the United States, 2-10 acres of well maintained and, in some cases, irrigated pasture may provide sufficient food for a horse’s nutritional requirements.

Dryland pastures that are not irrigated can provide up to 30-38 acres per horse for the overall fodder requirements of the animal.

It goes without saying that many individuals keep horses on smaller parcels of property and do not rely on the land to provide them with any fodder.

How Much Land Per Horse?

Horse farm owners should establish the carrying capacity of their land before deciding how many horses may be kept on the property. Arnd Bronkhorst Photography is a professional photographer based in the Netherlands. There is a wide range in the quantity of land required for an equestrian enterprise to maintain each horse. Significant elements in calculating how much acreage will be required include the intended usage of the horses as well as the master horse-keeping plan for the stable and the surrounding neighborhood.

  1. Our editors choose the links that appear on this page.
  2. A per-acre technique has traditionally been used to estimate the amount of land required.
  3. If you have more than one horse, it is sometimes recommended that you set aside two acres for the first one and one more acre for each new horse to avoid overgrazing the pastures.
  4. Running a horse farm or facility is difficult labor, and you shouldn’t get into it without doing your research.
  5. According to her, “we propose that stable owners take into consideration what they are doing with their horses as well as the carrying capacity of the land.” When determining how much land is required per horse, it is important to consider the carrying capacity and usage of the land.

This allows for the consideration of a variety of issues. These include general pasture management, pasture rotation, manure management, stream and pond buffering, and other best-management techniques that may help the ecosystem remain healthy for both horses and people to live in and thrive in.

Pasture for Forage

Equine grazing is a natural way for them to satisfy their nutritional requirements on a daily basis. Grazing may be a cost-effective and nutritious means of supplying nutrients and fiber to livestock. In order to give enough nourishment to horses, barns that rely on turnout to offer fodder as part of a horse’s ration will inevitably require greater land to do so. A decent rule of thumb is to keep at least 50% of the land covered in vegetation and no more than 50% of the land exposed to the elements.

  • The greater the number of grazing possibilities available to a horse, the more discriminating he will become in terms of what he eats and what he leaves behind.
  • At the start of the season, your pasture grass should be between 6″ and 8″ tall, depending on the species.
  • Even though pasture is the primary source of food in some barns, others use paddocks for exercise purposes alone, rather than for nutritional requirements.
  • Non-grazing lots have the potential to be smaller, allowing for a higher stocking density to be achieved.
  • Those horses can maintain the same level of health as horses galloping on a 40-acre field, and their nutritional requirements may be met with feed, vitamins, and hay, among other things.
  • They are used for a variety of purposes.
  • In smaller turnout pens, it’s vital to remove dung on a regular basis to avoid a buildup that might attract flies or cause an odor, both of which are undesirable.
  • Other barns prefer to keep horses in stalls unless they are being exercised regularly, according to the owner.

In each of these cases, determining the amount of land required only on the basis of nutritional and exercise requirements does not take into consideration other considerations, such as the community’s zoning rules and best management techniques, which are important considerations.

Best-Management Practices

As previously stated, an alternate approach to the number of horses per acre technique is to take into account the carrying capacity of the land and the purpose of the area in question. According to O’Meara, this approach necessitates greater deliberation and a thorough grasp of local zoning rules and storm water management plans than the previous model. It also contains a more comprehensive stable management plan, which incorporates practices like as pasture rotation, manure management, stream and pond buffering, among other things.

  • The closeness of a piece of property to developed neighborhoods increases the likelihood that zoning regulations and ordinances will contain limits regulating the number of horses that can be maintained on the parcel of land.
  • It appears to be a lot of effort, but it is well worth it.” It is possible that even horse-friendly areas will not be horse-friendly if there are no horses in the neighborhood at the time of your visit.
  • Although horse enthusiasts believe horses are attractive, not everyone shares this opinion.
  • They differ from one town to the next and can address issues such as stocking density, environmental planning, and the number of horses that can be kept on the land.
  • For example, a hamlet on Long Island, New York, near O’Meara’s boyhood home, is designated for horses on properties of one acre or more in size.
  • However, this is only applicable if the land has previously been used to house horses.
  • Of a similar vein, the laws in this community state that the horses on the property must be owned by a family member who resides on the land.

In fact, keeping a horse for a friend is not permitted since it is deemed a business activity and as such is not covered by the zoning regulations in place.

The area of stables that exceed the limit allowed by the community’s code are often deemed agricultural land and are thus subject to right-to-farm regulations, according to her explanation.

Farm villages are being displaced by suburban development in various areas of the country.

Consider surrounding land plots and whether or not other farms are for sale, since this might indicate an approaching development project while looking for a new place to live.

It is also important for stable owners to be aware of environmental rules that are specified in a community’s storm water management plan.

According to her, “they may include fence setbacks from streams to prevent horses from going in and churning up the water,” as well as infiltration basins and other features.

How Many Horses Are Too Many?

That is dependent on the situation. There are a plethora of possible responses to this question. First and foremost, from a purely economic sense, if you are straining to provide enough food for all of the horses, there are far too many of them. A barn’s number of horses should be evaluated honestly, as should the number of lesson clients and training horses it has. When monthly board, lesson clients, and training horses are barely covering operating expenses, leaving little cash for “extras,” it’s time to consider selling some of the horses.

  1. When you’re unable to provide adequate care for all of your horses, it’s time to consider selling them.
  2. When it comes to barn-owned horses, it can be a tough decision to make.
  3. Furthermore, no sale is ever required to be final.
  4. In a similar vein, there may come a moment when you have an excessive number of client-owned horses to care for.
  5. However, investing in barn staff or reducing the number of boarding customers may be necessary in order to provide acceptable care for all of the horses on the property.

Take-Home Message

Every stable is unique in terms of how it relies on pasture for nutrition and turnout, and each one has its own methods of doing so. The purpose of a new piece of property, or the expansion of the present amount of land that the stable possesses, must be determined before the purchase or expansion of land is completed. Also worth investigating are municipal zoning rules and environmental impact plans, which may be found on the internet. If you’d want to learn more about land use planning for horse facilities, check out the relevant materials available at

How Much Land Do I Need for a Horse? (2022 Guide)

The horse is one of the largest domesticated animals we have, and it requires a lot of area. These enormous beasts, which may weigh more than 1,000 pounds and tower more than six feet tall, are colossal and intimidating. They have long legs and a lot of muscle, therefore they need to be trained on a regular basis to maintain their shape. Furthermore, horses consume enormous amounts of plant matter, which necessitates the provision of large tracts of land. But what is the exact amount of land that is required to keep a horse healthy and happy?

To tell the truth, it is dependent on a number of circumstances, which we will examine more in this post. It’s hoped that at the conclusion of this article, you’ll have a clear notion of how much space your horses require, based on your individual situation.

Land For Grazing Versus Space for Exercise

Your land requirements will be substantially different depending on whether you intend to allow your horse to forage on your property or if you intend to supply it with plenty of hay. If you’re providing your horse with hay, the area it need is mostly for exercise and grazing. If, on the other hand, you want for your horse to obtain the majority of its feed by grazing, you’ll need plenty of land that has been properly maintained to ensure that there is always enough food available. Everything above means that horses who graze will want more area that is better managed than a horse that merely requires land to be ridden on for exercise.

Land Requirements for Grazing Horses

If you’re going to keep your horse graze in the pasture and anticipate this to make up most of its feed, then you need to start with a minimum of two acres. That is not to argue that a horse will not be able to survive in a smaller setting. If you know how to manage your property well, a horse may survive on as little as an acre of foraging space. Horses, on the other hand, are ravenous feeders. A horse can easily consume 20 pounds of hay in a single day, and over the course of a year, one horse will consume approximately 27 acres of hay or pasture.

Also take into consideration that different regions may have land that is more or less suitable for grazing than others.

If you live in a very lush region, on the other hand, your horses may not require as much room since they will be able to extract more feed from each acre.

Multiple Horses – More Space

Of course, for a single horse, a two-acre minimum is a good starting place to work from. Every new horse will necessitate the purchase of additional land. Your first horse required two acres, but each new horse should be able to survive on just one extra acre of space. You could wish to supply two horses with a minimum of three acres, and four horses with a minimum of five acres, if your herd consists of four horses. Consider the following: Where Did Horses Come From and How Did They Become Domesticated?

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Land Management

It is not enough to just have acreage for your horses. That property will require active management if you want it to stay green, productive, and able to meet the demands of your horses in the long run. Overgrazing is a big source of worry since it might result in a lifeless field filled with muck instead of vibrant grass. An excessive number of weeds might result in runoff that contains polluted water because they prevent the earth from adequately absorbing and draining as it should.

In some cases, a pile of manure can result in restricted grazing space and generally bad circumstances. Avoiding these problems necessitates daily effort and extensive planning ahead of time. Credits for the image: Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH and Shutterstock

Space Requirements for Exercise

When it comes to exercise, horses require surprisingly little space in order to maintain their health and obtain enough of physical activity. Area used for exercise does not need the same level of attention to detail as land that will be grazed. In reality, there is no requirement for any grass to be present on this site. Just 400 square feet of area for one horse to exercise is all that is required, which is a square 20 feet across each way. Although having more room is always beneficial, your horse may be happy and healthy with just 400 square feet.

Keep in mind that adding more horses will demand a larger exercise space, unless they are kept in the exercise lot at separate times of the day or night.

So, if two horses are housed together, they will require an area of 800 square feet of room.

Legal Requirements in Your Jurisdiction

Many excellent suggestions and regulations have been addressed, all of which should be followed to ensure that your horses are healthy, happy and receiving appropriate nutrition. If you follow these criteria, your horse should have enough of space for grazing and exercise. However, you must also consider whether or not it is allowed to have horses in the area where you reside. Some states and towns have standards that must be satisfied in terms of the amount of space that each horse is allowed to have.

You don’t want to spend months or years planning and building a barn and pasture for your horse just to discover that it does not comply with municipal standards!


The quantity of acreage your horse requires is determined by a number of factors. To allow your horse to graze in the pasture, you’ll need to offer at least two acres of well-managed land for a single horse, as well as an extra acre for each subsequent horse. However, if you simply want to feed your horses hay and only require space for them to exercise, you may get away with 400 square feet per horse in most cases. Prior to beginning any arrangements, however, make sure you are aware of the applicable regulations in your area and that you are remaining within the legal boundaries of your current location!

The author, Dean, is a lifelong outdoorsman who spends most of his time travelling around the different terrain of the southwestern United States with his canine partner, Gohan, who is his closest buddy.

Among Dean’s many loves, studying is one of the closest to his heart. He is an excellent researcher and reader, and he enjoys delving into fascinating subjects such as history, economics, relationships, pets, politics, and a variety of other subjects.

How Much Land Do You Need for a Horse?

Between horse owners, there is a lot of speculation about how much space is required to graze a horse decently. A large part of the reason you’ll receive so many different answers to a question that appears to be basic is that the quantity of land you need for a horse is dependent on a variety of different circumstances. It is customary to offer two acres of grass each horse when replenishing horse meadows. However, the quantity of area required to graze a horse is determined by a variety of factors, including:

  • Geographical location and climate
  • Forage conditions
  • And other factors. The type of horses
  • Grazing rotation and other management techniques
  • Other animals on pasture with the horses
  • And other factors.

A horse owner who runs a large horse breeding enterprise in the parched Nevada desert would have very different obstacles in setting up pasture than a hobby farmer in North Carolina who has only a few horses to care for on his property. Continue reading to find out more about the variables that influence how much acreage a horse need to flourish.

How Much Land Does a Horse Need?

The amount of acreage required for a horse varies greatly from one place to another. In spite of this, a few fundamental principles have been established to help those who are seeking to populate their pastures with livestock based on the average requirements of their animals and the number of pounds of food they are expected to graze in a given day. Numerous novice horse owners believe that by turning out a horse onto several acres of pasture, the quantity of extra feed required to care for the horse will be reduced.

Unfortunately, this is a common misperception, and it can result in the horse’s health deteriorating swiftly as a result.

They will eventually succumb to parasites, both inside and externally.

The Two-Horses-Per-Acre Rule

Regardless of the grazing circumstances, the general view among horse owners is that each horse requires around 1.5 to 2 acres of good grazing space to maintain its health and wellbeing. The fact that this rule applies only if the pasture has been extensively managed, with unpleasant weeds eliminated and good feed either sown or fostered through fertilization and land management measures, should not be underestimated.

What Factors Impact the Quality of Grazing Land?

The quantity of land you require for a horse diminishes in proportion to the quality of the land you have available to you. Horses are extremely destructive and hard on pasture, thus it is critical to ensure that the pasture has adequate grass for the horses to feed on. There are a variety of elements that influence the quality of grazing area for horses. Here are some of the things that must be taken into consideration:

  • The presence of weeds on grazing ground can cause a variety of complications for horses. Horses are poisoned by several common weeds, like nightshade and ragwort, when consumed in sufficient numbers, and this can result in irreversible organ damage. Aside from crowding out actual grass in pastures that have been overgrazed, weeds also cause the quantity of feed available on the land to become progressively depleted. Drought: Because horses seek the greenest, most delicate section of the grass, a lack of rain can have a significant negative influence on the amount of grass and fodder available in a pasture. Horse owners in arid locations where droughts are common must offer enough of additional feed and hay to compensate for the lack of natural grass available during dry periods. Heavy rains: When it comes to grazing area, too much rain may be almost as detrimental as not enough rain, especially in tiny horse pastures. After a period of heavy rainfall, horses may quickly turn a tiny pasture into an impassable mud puddle, putting whatever fodder present in the meadow almost inedible to them. In order to prevent this from happening, horses should be substantially supplied with hay and feed throughout the winter, regardless of the type of geographic circumstances in which they are kept. Weather conditions such as snowstorms and freezing temperatures: Not only will horses require more feed to keep themselves warm and ward off illness during cold weather, but heavy snowfalls will also kill off any remaining forage in the pasture, requiring snowbound horses to be supplemented with hay and feed in addition to pasture land. Horse pasture management is complicated by the fact that a piece of grazing property with adequate irrigation and water supplies is also a source of conflict. Natural water sources typically perform a fantastic job of assisting in the maintenance of healthy feed grasses and providing horses with a convenient location to drink and bathe at their leisure. Horse dung, on the other hand, is regarded to be a severe water pollutant, and as a result, legislation are normally in place to safeguard local water sources from horse-related pollution.

A horse’s ability to go through his or her efforts before needing more feed from its owner is greatly influenced by seasonal weather and pasture conditions, and lengthy periods of wet weather can cause pasture damage if horses continue to graze on it. As a result, effectively managing grazing land is critical to ensuring that as much fodder as possible is obtained from a limited pasture in order to keep horses happy and healthy. Horse owners have little control over the weather that rolls through their pastures from season to season.

Keeping horses on your property is not a good idea if your property is in a drought.

It is preferable if you begin managing horse property properly long before you acquire a horse and bring it through the gates of your pasture.

What Factors Impact the Amount of Grazing Land Needed?

In addition to considering the aspects that influence how “excellent” grazing land is for horses (and, as a result, how much of it you need to feed them on it effectively), you must also examine the factors that influence the quantity of grazing area you require for your horses. When considering how many horses you can have on your property, there are a variety of considerations to take into account:

  • Geographical location: The quantity of feed available per acre in a temperate zone will be significantly different from the amount of forage available per acre in an arid region of the same size. Horses in dry or desert settings require two or three times the quantity of pasture to get the same amount of feed as they would in a temperate environment where they would require a considerably lower amount of land. Food and forage conditions: The sort of forage that is available on a parcel of land has a significant influence on how much nourishment horses will be able to get from that area. When compared to an unmanaged pasture that has been overrun with weeds and other unattractive feed, a well-managed pasture that has been planted with nutritious ground cover such as alfalfa hay will be far superior (and will be able to maintain significantly more horses comfortably). Veterinary management and care: Different species of horses (as well as those grown for different reasons) have a range of dietary and veterinary requirements. When living on wildlife management property, a herd of wild mustangs can feed for themselves far more readily (and survive on significantly less fodder) than horses kept in an intense breeding program or horses trained for speciality activities such as racing or showing

The numerous elements that influence grazing land for horses need a thorough evaluation of each site where there are intentions to stock it with horses in order to avoid costly mistakes. It is far easier to analyze a pasture and determine that it is unsuitable for horses before allowing horses to be placed on it than it is to try to correct poor pasture management methods after horses have been placed on it.

Smaller Horse Pastures Require More Maintenance

The good news for small-scale farmers is that horses may be successfully raised on as little as a few acres of land, provided that the area is properly managed. Although the amount of area available for grazing horses decreases as the size of your herd grows, the amount of intense management the land will require increases. If you intend to keep more than one horse, you should factor in the additional time and effort required to prepare a small pasture suited for them.

Manure and Small Pasture Management

One of the biggest challenges of keeping horses on a small amount of land is that horse manure builds up quickly, and this can compromise the quality of the grazing. Here are some of the ways that manure piles can negatively impact a small pasture:

  • Manure heaps have the potential to destroy grass, making the pasture more vulnerable to plant invasion and other issues. The accumulation of manure near water sources such as wells, springs, lakes, wetlands, ponds, and water tables can cause pollution and even result in a fine for the pasture’s owner if they live in an area where regulations are in place to protect local water sources from pasture contaminants
  • However, this is not always the case. Increased manure build-up can produce objectionable odors, making it less pleasant to visit and decreasing the value of the property while also causing irritation among neighbors. Piles of manure serve as a breeding ground for barnyard pests such as flies and rodents. If horses are injured, an infestation of flies in the pasture as a result of excessive manure in the pasture might increase the likelihood of flystrike occurring. Flies will bite and bother horses regardless of whether they cause a wound to get infected
  • Even if they do not cause a wound to become infected.

Fortunately, on a small piece of horse pasture land, the management approach of just walking around and manually removing the manure — as time-consuming and inconvenient as it may appear at the time — may provide a number of benefits, including great compost for the farm garden.

Soil Testing and Small Pasture Management

Despite the fact that soil testing is more commonly connected with horticultural techniques on farmland, soil testing pasture before introducing livestock is an important aspect of land management. It is not only possible to get a broad idea about the quantity of pathogens or pollutants present in the soil via soil testing, but it is also possible to get an idea about what types of fertilizer and other amendments may be utilized to make the soil more fruitful through soil testing. The greater the amount of thick, lush grass that can be cultivated on a piece of land, the greater the number of horses that can be supported.

Soil tests are frequently available through these extensions, either for no charge or for a minimal price, depending on the circumstances.

  • Take anhovelorsoil probe with you as you go around the pasture in an M-shaped pattern over the length of the whole pasture. You should bring a bucket with you. Take a soil sample at each of the M’s turning locations to determine its composition. With a shovel or a soil probe, dig down six inches into the ground to remove the sod. Pour in enough soil using a shovel or probe to fill the bucket half way
  • Once soil samples have been collected from each of the “M” spots, take each of the individual soil samples and thoroughly mix them in the bucket with the shovel handle or probe. Toss some dirt into a zip-top sandwich bag and seal it shut. Presented below is your subsample, which will be forwarded to an agricultural extension facility for analysis.

For individuals who prefer to perform basic soil testing at home rather than waiting for soil testing results from a lab, soil testing kits are available for purchase, allowing you to perform the analysis yourself. For more information, visit It is possible for a soil test to provide a good baseline profile for a horse owner in order to figure out what their pasture conditions are, but it can also provide a jumping-off point for them to figure out how to rehabilitate their grazing land in order to provide better forage for their horses in the future.

Managing Horse Land for Optimal Grazing

While it is possible to keep horses on a limited amount of land, doing so necessitates the use of extensive pasture management procedures that are not needed if the horses are housed in more plentiful pastures. Here are some of the different measures that horse owners may use to keep their grazing pastures in good condition:

  • Pasture rotation: When horses are kept on a small piece of land, one of the most effective ways for horse owners to preserve their pasture from overgrazing is to implement a system of pasture rotation. In most cases, this is accomplished by the use of temporary fence systems that restrict horses to grazing to a certain section of the property at a given time. Dry lots and sacrifice paddocks are used for a variety of purposes. Dry lots (also known as sacrifice areas or sacrifice paddocks) are a technique for small landowners to “rest” parts of pasture and let the grazing to grow back to an acceptable length before allowing horses to graze on it again. Dry lots are also known as sacrifice areas or sacrifice paddocks. It is necessary to allow the grass to recuperate once it has been grazed down to three or four inches in height, or else the grass will be grazed to death. In order to allow pastures to recover from grazing, horses are confined to a “dry lot,” where they are fed only hay and grain. The practice of “turning out” one horse at a time into pasture to graze while keeping the other horses stabled or in a dry lot is a good approach to control how many horses graze on a limited amount of land, especially when many horses are maintained on the property. By using this technique, you may reduce the amount of grazing damage horses might do at any given time, allowing the grass a chance to recuperate. Withholding pasture is a bad idea. Horses should not be brought out onto new grass in the spring unless the grass has had at least a few weeks to establish itself, according to best practices. Horses may overindulge in new fodder during the first few weeks of having access to it, making them more susceptible to ailments such as colic and laminitis as a result. Horses should be denied access to the pasture until they grow acclimated to the new feed. The animals will, however, require appropriate extra feed to make up for the shortfall.
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Maintaining horses on a smaller property might be more time-consuming than keeping them on a large property with dozens of acres. Nonetheless, it is possible to do so successfully as long as management strategies are followed consistently during each growing season of the year.

Advantages of Correct Pasture Management for Horses

Along with the obvious benefit of ensuring that horses have enough to eat, landowners who properly manage their pasture stand to gain in a variety of other ways. Some of the advantages of effective pasture management for growing horses include the following:

  • Apart from simply having enough food to eat, horses who are given ample space to run around, browse at their leisure, and generally perform their natural behaviors are better behaved and easier to manage than horses who are forced to spend the majority of their time confined in a dirt paddock
  • Healthier, happier horses Reduced feed maintenance expenses: The better the pasture and forage management for your horses, the less grain and supplementary hay you’ll have to offer throughout the spring and summer months, which can dramatically reduce the price of feeding a horse throughout the year. More issues with parasites and other ailments are less common: Making certain that horses have ample (and constant) access to fodder, as well as ensuring that pasture does not get overrun with muck and dead grass, are all important considerations. Many horse-related ailments, such as laminitis, colic, and internal parasites, can be avoided if you follow these guidelines. Increasing the number of horses you can comfortably keep on a limited piece of land is a function of how good the pasture is and how much tasty fodder it contains. Not that you should try to fit as many horses as possible into one piece of property, but it does provide horse owners a bit more wiggle space in terms of caring for their animals as a result. In addition to ensuring that there is sufficient of fodder available for horses to graze on, properly managing grazing area ensures that pastures remain fresh, green, and scenic. It is not uncommon for potential horse owners to have their fantasies of horses racing through lush, beautiful fields dashed when they arrive at their new home to find a muddy, trampled-down lot a few months down the line, the inevitable outcome of poor land management.

When determining how many horses you may keep and how the property is maintained, it is critical to be realistic about your options. Conditions in the paddock can quickly deteriorate if this is not done, especially on fallow or underdeveloped grassland.

Keeping Enough Land for Horses is Crucial for Their Health

One of the most prevalent welfare difficulties in horse management is the situation in which small landowners attempt to retain too many horses on too little property, resulting in poor welfare outcomes. The result is not only a rapid degradation of the ground, leaving the horses with little to graze, but it can also prohibit horses from being efficiently kept on the pasture for future seasons if the problem is not addressed in a timely manner.

How Many Acres Do You Need for a Horse?

So you want to maintain a horse but aren’t sure if you have enough space to do so on your property? This is something that is frequently difficult to determine, especially when there are so many variables to take into consideration. Consider that factors such as the number of horses you intend to keep and how they will be fed will have a significant impact on the amount of land you require. Obviously, you don’t need a 10-acre plot if you’re only maintaining one horse that will be fed hay every day, but in order to get the greatest results, you need to know how many acres you’ll need for your horses.

The Bitter Truth About Keeping Horses

A good rule of thumb to remember while feeding your horse is that the average horse may go through up to 30 acres of pasture or an equivalent quantity of hay in a single year, depending on how much hay you feed them. As a result, regardless of the size of your property, you should be able to fulfill the nutritional requirements of your horse. Sure, keeping a horse on your own property may be enjoyable and fulfilling, and it may also present tremendous commercial prospects; nevertheless, you must plan properly, have some equestrian expertise, and conduct much study before embarking on this journey.

How Much Land Do You Need to Keep a Horse?

Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to the question of how much land you should have to grow a horse, because, as previously said, there are a variety of elements that must be taken into consideration (which we will discuss in the next section). Experts, on the other hand, advocate at least 2 acres for the first horse and one additional acre for each additional horse after that. In addition, with such a large quantity of land, you will be able to experiment with various pasture management strategies without running the danger of overgrazing.

If you intend to feed your horse primarily from pasture, you will require a bigger amount of land.

Also, the vegetation should be 8 to 10 inches tall, free of weeds, and not completely bitten to the ground before being used.

Generally speaking, experts recommend 400 square feet per horse for the non-grazing area; however, a greater space is always preferable. A good amount of space for horses to wander about freely for a few hours each day is sufficient; more space is not always better for horses.

Factors to Consider When Determining How Much Acreage Your Horse Needs

When deciding whether or not to raise horses, there are a few factors to consider in order to ensure that the animals live happily ever after. The following are the three most significant:

1. Pasture Management

Is it more likely that your horses will spend the most of their time in a barn or on the pasture? If they want to live outside, anticipate the pastures to become worn out rapidly, and consider purchasing additional land. Smaller parcels of land will need more intensive maintenance and management. For example, you will need to move the animals throughout the pastures on a regular basis, lock them in the stable when the fields become muddy, and seed the pastures often. When it comes to seeding, late winter and early spring are the greatest periods to get your fields ready for planting.

That is why purchasing a larger piece of land might be a wise decision.

2. Quality of Land

Another essential consideration is the amount of feed that can be produced on the property for your horses. For example, if you live in a dry region that is frequently subjected to draught, the quality of the soil may not be sufficient to maintain the vegetation that is required to feed your horses. In that situation, you will want to purchase a larger parcel of land so that the animals may have a larger area to roam about on in search of food. Furthermore, as previously said, accounting for a larger amount of land helps to avoid overgrazing, which can assist to prevent the condition of the land from deteriorating any further.

3. Number of Horses

Do you want to retain a single horse or an entire herd of horses? The way you respond to this question will help you determine how much land you will require. As previously said, your first horse should have at least 2 acres of land, and you should add an additional acre to the land for every other horse you bring onto the property. To put it another way, if you want to rear four horses, you should aim for a plot of ground that is anywhere between five and eight acres in size. People who have horses, on the other hand, usually always end up with more horses, so if you have the money, purchase additional pasture.

The Problem With Keeping Horses On Small Acreage

While experts prefer that horses be kept on a bigger piece of land, horses may still flourish on a smaller amount of ground. However, there are several obstacles that come with this strategy, including but not limited to:


Overgrazing is likely the most difficult problem to deal with when rearing equines on a tiny piece of ground, and it is mainly caused by overstocking. If you are growing 10 horses on a 2-acre plot of land, it goes without saying that the animals will consume the grass until it is so short that it dies out. Not only will the outcome be unsightly pastures, but there will also be significant soil erosion.

It is likely that rainwater would wash over the hard, compacted soils, sweeping away manure, sediments, and nutrients. This will degrade the soil’s quality, making it more difficult for nutritious grasses to grow.


Often, we attribute mud paddling to bad weather, but the fact is that it has less to do with the quantity of rain that falls and more to do with where the precipitation flows after it has struck the ground. When you have a tiny piece of land, it might be difficult to construct a functional drainage system, which can result in rainfall collecting all over the place. In addition, when dirt accumulates near feeders, water troughs, gates, and other high-traffic locations, these areas will rapidly turn into muddy mires.

Besides the fact that it causes bacterial illnesses in the feet of horses, it also makes them more prone to slipping due to the fact that it makes them slippery.

Piles of Manure

Approximately 40 to 45 pounds of manure are produced by the average horse every day. In most cases, if you are keeping your horse on a small piece of land, you will not have enough room to accommodate the ever-growing pile of manure. Furthermore, a huge manure pile will not only be ugly, but it may also serve as a breeding ground for strongyles, roundworms, and other parasites if it is not decomposed properly. In addition, as the weather becomes hot, the manure will attract all kinds of bugs and insects, and when it rains, it will release toxins that will seep into the ground and surface waterways in the surrounding area.

Hay Storage

Approximately 40 to 45 pounds of manure are produced by the average horse each day. In most cases, if you are keeping your horse on a small piece of land, you will not have enough room to accommodate the constantly growing pile of manure. It is also possible that a huge manure pile will not only be ugly, but it may also serve as a breeding ground for parasites such as strongyles and roundworms. In addition, as the weather becomes hot, the manure will attract all kinds of pests and insects, and when it rains, it will release toxins that will seep into the ground and surface waterways in the immediate vicinity.

How Do You Know You Are Keeping Too Many Horses?

This is a question that has a plethora of possible responses. As a starting point, let us consider the economic implications of the situation. If you find yourself continuously straining to purchase food for all of your horses, it is likely that you have too many, and you should consider selling some of them to make room. The overgrazing of pastures and the overstretching of available resources are two more indicators. In such a situation, you may want to consider selling some of the animals or purchasing extra property.

The Takeaway

When it comes to horse ownership, each individual will have a strategy for how many horses they want to maintain and how they want to feed those horses.

Aim for a larger plot of land if you want the finest outcomes. In addition to providing ample grazing space for the horses, this will allow you to provide appropriate amenities to keep them comfortable.

Limited land? No Problem!

The ideal horse farm may be a large ranch with fields that stretch as far as the eye can see, with the most serious horsekeeping concern being how to check all of those miles of fences before dusk, but this is not often the case. However, the truth is frequently quite different. Those of us who have horses on a tiny piece of land understand how difficult it may be. Grazing pastures that are overgrazed, turnouts that are too tiny—these are just a few of the difficulties you may encounter if you have a small amount of property.

  1. Don’t be concerned; you’re in excellent company.
  2. It makes logic; the greater the density of the human population, the less room there is for huge animals such as horses to graze and breed.
  3. It is prospering at the moment.
  4. Nothing, not even a shortage of open space, seemed to be able to dissuade us from continuing to maintain horses.
  5. Horses, on the other hand, are versatile and do well on little parcels of land, despite the difficulties.
  6. “Overgrazing, as well as manure management and water runoff, are major concerns.
  7. ” At the very least, a well-managed farm will have lush, verdant pastures during the warm months of the year.

If you conceive of your tiny farm as a living organism, you’ll be able to see how all of its elements are interconnected.

If you ignore one of them, you may encounter challenges that will have an impact on his overall well-being.

Nonpoint source contamination can include fertilizer, pesticides, sediment, and fecal waste, to name a few examples.

Many governments have established rules for small farm management to assist horse owners in their endeavors.

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Furthermore, as a result of a newly approved state Water Quality Bill, the AAPs are now considered mandatory agricultural practices.

Consider it free mentorship; after all, what’s good for the environment is also good for our horses, so why not combine the two?

When you take a glance around your tiny farm, you’re likely to notice at least one or two items that may need some attention. These techniques will assist you in overcoming the difficulties associated with maintaining horses on tiny parcels of land.


When asked to name our most difficult horsekeeping difficulty, the vast majority of us would most likely give the same response: the ever-growing dung mound. For example, “a average 1,000-pound horse generates roughly 40 pounds of manure every day,” according to Greene. The horse’s bedding, which may add an extra 15 to 20 pounds of material to the equation if he spends any time in a stall, is another consideration. It’s not difficult to understand why the manure pile looms so huge. And that dung mound is more than simply a sight; it is a health hazard.

  1. During the summer months, it will attract flies and other pests to the area.
  2. What you can do is put it in the compost.
  3. That’s compost, which may be used as a fertilizer or to improve the overall quality of the soil.
  4. It’s not as difficult as you may assume.
  5. To put it simply, “enough air movement, moisture retention and the appropriate temperatures must be present to allow bacteria to transform static heaps into completed compost.” Make your manure pile roughly twice as long at its base as it is tall in order to decompose it properly.
  6. It is possible to purchase a compost thermometer at most garden centers or nurseries.
  7. The following three components are required for a good compost pile:
  • Air. Pests, earthworms, and hardworking bacteria transform manure into beneficial fertilizer for the soil. Aerobic creatures require oxygen in order to survive. You can count on them to demolish your pile in a couple of weeks since they are good people. Even if you don’t have access to a tractor, getting air into the manure pile doesn’t have to be a time-consuming task. Toss the pile once a week using a pitchfork if the size of the mound allows it. If you have access to a tractor, rotating it is much more advantageous. If neither of these options are available, insert two or three perforated PVC pipes (about five feet in length) into the compost pile instead. They’ll serve as chimneys, allowing air to circulate throughout the pile. In the event that your compost pile isn’t appropriately aerated, it will generate an unpleasant stench that smells similar to rotten eggs. That’s an indication of anaerobic decomposition, which is breakdown caused by organisms that flourish in the absence of oxygen. In addition to emitting methane gas, which is a significant contribution to global warming, the anaerobic condition produces material that is unsuitable for use as fertilizer, according to the World Resources Institute. Anaerobic organisms do not exert as much effort. Currently, the manure is still decomposing, but it might take years, and in the meantime, it is a source of pollution.
  • Moisture. Moisture is essential for the optimal microbial activity in your compost pile. You should aim for a moisture level ranging from 40 to 60%. In contrast, if the pile is very wet, the additional moisture will compress the pile, preventing it from undergoing beneficial aerobic decomposition. For moisture testing, take a handful of material and squeeze it. It should feel damp, but not leaking, and have the consistency of a sponge. During the rainy season, if the pile becomes too swollen, consider covering it with atarp. If the soil is too dry, you may need to apply more water. If that’s the case, simply mist it down with a garden hose as you spin it
  • Having the proper carbon to nitrogen ratio. The optimal carbon-to-carbon ratio is between 25:1 and 30:1, with carbon being the greater number in this equation. Maintaining a 500:1 carbon to nitrogen ratio in wood shavings is important to remember since too much shavings in the compost will cause things to move more slowly than they otherwise would. Attempt to keep wood shavings out of the pile, but if they do manage to get in, you may re-balance the ratio by adding more nitrogen-rich materials to the pile, such as extra horse dung, blood meal, grass clippings, or chicken manure.

To learn more about composting, Coleman recommends that farmers connect with their local extension agent, who may offer simple instructions on how to prepare a space for composting, ignite the pile, and manage it. Generally speaking, says Coleman, “the ordinary horse owner can compost their horses’ excrement with little difficulty.” At the end of the process, you will have a useful and precious resource that you can use to feed the plants and grasses on your farm. If composting isn’t an option on your property, consider hiring a private hauler to come on a weekly or monthly basis and remove your waste.


On a tiny farm, we can’t afford to overlook the muck. Mud is a breeding ground for parasites and germs, and flies find it enticing. It is also a sloppy and ugly mess. Of course, we blame the weather for the mud, but the problem isn’t so much how much rain falls as it is where the water travels when it hits the ground and becomes mud.

It is quite easy to create a muddy bog if water collects around heavy traffic places like as gate openings, feeders, and watering troughs. There is nothing you can do to stop the rain from falling, but there is something you can do to divert it.

  • Install gutters and downspouts on every building that has a roof. Every inch of rain that falls on a modest four- to six-stall barn might result in the release of up to 600 gallons of water. That’s an excellent reason to point the water in the right way.
  • Install swales, berms, or a French drain to divert water away from the house. Essentially, they function in the same manner as gutters on roofed structures do, transporting water safely away from paddocks, fields arenas, and down drives
  • And
  • Construct a catch basin or culvert to alleviate the problem of low places. If you have a wetland or pond where rainfall collects, consider having a contractor create a catch basin to collect the water and drain it away through underground pipes to prevent flooding. It is normally adequate for agricultural usage to have a basin that is two by two or three by three feet in size, and while it may appear to be a costly repair, the benefits of having a dry property greatly exceed the expense.
  • Renovate locations that receive a lot of traffic or are excessively compacted. Greene recounts his experiences at the University of Vermont’s horse facility, which led to his success. In paddocks where horses tended to gather, high traffic areas were encrusted in muck, which became more pronounced in the spring. According to Greene, the project involved replacing eight inches of compacted topsoil with a layer of geotextile filter fabric, four inches of huge stone (1 1/2 inch to 1 3/4 inch in size), which was covered by another layer of fabric, and finally four inches of filthy pea stone on the uppermost layer. Water was able to flow below the compacted top surface and into a slightly inclined PVC pipe buried under the traffic lane, where it was directed to a grass buffer and an existing French drain, thanks to the stone sandwich that was produced. The project was a resounding success, and


It is a rare little acreage that is capable of meeting the nutritional requirements of all of its horses; yet, it is more than probable that they will require extra high-quality hay. Even tiny pastures, however, may provide valuable grazing time for livestock for at least a portion of the year. The University of Wisconsin’s Dan Undersander argues that overgrazing and under-fertilization are the most typical problems on small acreages. “The most common difficulty on small acreages,” says Undersander, is overgrazing and inadequate fertilization.

  1. Rainwater can flow down the surface of hard, compacted soils, transporting sediments and manure to ground and surface waterways.
  2. However, even on a little piece of land, it is feasible to produce a healthy and nutritious pasture if you follow a few easy guidelines.
  3. “One of the most common mistakes made on a small area horse farm is overstocking.” says the author.
  4. However, having too few horses to keep up with the pasture is another issue.
  5. This is when the weeds take over,” she says.
  • Every three to five years, take a sample of the soil. The samples should be taken from a variety of locations, but they should avoid regions that are outliers, such as areas along the road, sandy areas or badly eroded parts, advises Undersander. In order to find an average level of soil fertility throughout the field,” says the expert. Using the soil sample, you may determine which minerals your pasture need. The phosphorus content of many old, overgrazed horse pastures is inadequate.
  • Eliminate the presence of serious weed concerns. In established horse pastures, perennial broadleaf weeds are the most prevalent problem, but recognizing the weeds on your land will help you get them under control. Even if you can’t completely eradicate weeds from your pasture, Undersander suggests attacking every area of thistle or weeds that measures two by three feet or more by mowing it often or applying a herbicide. “If you choose the latter option, make sure to follow the product’s directions to the letter, both for the sake of the environment and the health of your horses,” Undersander advises. “One to two sprays of herbicide should be sufficient to control the situation.”
  • Fertilize according to the results of your soil sample. Grass, like your horse, demands an unique level of attention and nutrition. “The fertility of the soil is quite significant,” adds Undersander. “Once you understand what your soil is lacking, you can provide it with the nutrients it need.” If you increase or decrease the number of horses on your property, alter your feed or supplement program, or even just increase the amount of grain you give your horses, the minerals excreted in their dung may change. According on the findings of another soil test, you may need to re-fertilize your garden.”
  • Selecting the appropriate seed for your climate and soil conditions is essential. This changes based on where you reside and the soil conditions in which you are working. The fertility of the soil, drainage concerns, acidity, climatic hardiness, and appropriateness for horses are all factors to consider while selecting seed. Your county extension office can assist you in selecting vigorous grasses that will thrive in your location. Make certain you seed at the appropriate time of year for the seed variety.
  • Grazing should be done in a rotation. In the words of Undersander, “grazing horses on smaller, numerous pastures boosts fodder production without affecting the stocking rate.” The pastures may need to be’rested’ for two to three weeks during the hot, dry summer months.
  • Overseeding should be done in the fall. While soil temperatures are still warm, use a rotary spreader to broadcast or overseed your crops in the fall. When it comes to overseeding, the fall is an excellent time of year since the days are still sunny, the rainfall is plentiful, and the weeds are ready to go dormant.


Exercise improves the health of all of your horse’s systems. His hooves, digestive system, lungs, joints and even skin all benefit from being able to move around more frequently. However, living on a tiny area with limited turnout may make moving about a difficult task. What you can do: When it comes to designing turnouts, think outside the box.

  • You may modify the arrangement of paddocks on a regular basis by using temporary fence. A perimeter track within a paddock is used by some small farms to encourage horses to be more active by providing them with greater space. Horses are urged to continue moving forward by distributing feed and water at numerous “stations” along the track, even though the actual distance traveled is limited by the track. To make things more exciting, you may add different surfaces to the track, such as sand in sunny locations for lying down and relaxing, pea gravel for improved hoof quality, or little log jumps to keep things interesting. In some ways, it’s similar to creating a playscape for your horse
  • Turnout will be easier if there are in-and-outs off the barn. You can allow your horses to come inside to get out of the weather even if you are not present
  • Make use of run-in sheds in the paddocks or fields, and incorporate them into the fence-line to ensure that they do not encroach on paddock area.
  • Increase the number of hay bales on the property. Horses like meandering from grazing place to grazing spot when grazing. Increasing the number of piles—or slow-feeder hay nets—at various sites throughout the field will encourage them to roam more freely. Place the water trough a long distance away from any piles, and the horses will be forced to walk to come to the water.


One of the most difficult issues following turnout is determining where to put the hay. The ideal situation, according to Greene, is to purchase the entire amount of hay required for the year or season. This manner, you may evaluate the hay and customize the horses’ diets to meet their specific requirements, such as pasture ornaments vs broodmares or competitive show horses.” Another advantage of purchasing hay in quantity is the uniformity of the product. The sudden or severe changes in our horses’ diets, even if they are fed hay, might induce intestinal discomfort or laminitis, according to Greene.

What you can do is educate yourself on the proper methods of purchasing and storing hay.

  • Find a dependable hay provider and inquire as to whether you will be able to pay a storage charge in his barn. In many cases, the hay provider is content to sell the hay up front and then supply it on a regular basis.
  • Use caution while storing any hay you do have
  • Hay should be stored in a leakproof facility with proper ventilation.
  • Slow feeders may be used in stalls and paddocks to reduce hay consumption and help you get the most out of your hay budget.
  • Even if you are unable to purchase hay in huge amounts, make arrangements for frequent supplies. “Horse owners must be able to rely on a consistent supply of hay for their animals,” adds Coleman. The fact that you may only purchase in little quantities might provide a barrier because it means that your feeding regimen will alter with each load. Collaborate with an established and reliable hay provider that will allow you to purchase hay in increments over time, with the possibility of storage on their farm. On a small farm, consistency in hay and nutrition is even more crucial since there may not be enough pasture to give all of the nutrients your horses may require.”

Each of us wishes we could afford to own that fabled 1,000-acre property. The good news is that, with a little more effort, we can reap all of the benefits of a large farm on our modest acreages.

Not only will we be delighted with the way our farm looks, but our horses (as well as our neighbors) will be grateful to us as well. The original version of this essay appeared in EQUUS issue460, published in January 2016.

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