Warmer weather means rapid grass growth, so it may be time to rethink how much your horse has access to. Rachel Dyke explains the benefits of strip grazing and how to implement it
While you’re probably familiar with strip grazing as a method of restricting grass for tubby ponies, you may not be aware that it’s benefits are much wider-reaching.
Strip grazing involves fencing off a small strip in your horse’s pasture and moving the fences regularly to allow your horse access to fresh grass. How often you move the fencing is determined by grass growth and your horse’s appetite, and it may vary throughout the year, particularly during spring and summer when the grass is growing up to five times faster than in late autumn.
Both the fences of the grazing area should be moved at the same time, so the strip naturally migrates back and forth across the pasture. This creates three different areas of the field — the recovering, grazing and resting areas (see diagram, right) — although the size of these will fluctuate depending on the location of the strip.
Why strip graze?
There are three main reasons for strip grazing…
To protect your pasture
It helps the grass to grow at a healthy, productive rate because only a small area of the pasture is grazed at a time, while the ungrazed areas are rested and allowed to recover. Overgrazing without resting will result in reduced grass growth and quality, as horses will tend to eat the more palatable species first. When paddocks are overgrazed, bare areas are quickly filled with weeds.
To manage weight
It reduces your horse’s grass intake, which can help to manage his weight. Grass is high in soluble carbohydrates (fructans), which can lead to problems such as obesity and laminitis if ingested in large quantities, particularly in the spring and autumn. However, the amount of grass made available in the strip will dictate how successful it is in controlling his weight. You’ll probably need to use strip grazing alongside other weight management methods, such as time in the stable or fitting a grazing muzzle, at times of rapid grass growth.
To acclimatise to a new field
It can be used when moving your horse to a field with more grass than he’s accustomed to. The strip can gradually be made wider as he adjusts to the extra grass, provided that this doesn’t lead to excessive weight gain.
What do you need?
Because strip grazing involves regularly changing the paddock boundaries, it’s best to use electrical tape and posts to divide the field. These are cost-effective, and can be erected and moved easily. An electric current is recommended to help deter your horse from trying to gain access to the ungrazed grass on the other side of the fence.