Is having my horse on a grass turnout better than a dry lot?
In some cases, grass is better. Depending on where you live, and how much land you have, you may be able to have grass pastures year round. They can be ideal for 24/7 turnout, this most mimics the “wild horse” tendencies to forage and move all the time. In smaller situations, where only small paddocks or turnouts are available for grass, and the entire barn shares them, it’s only a little bit like a “wild horse” scenario. The paddock photo below is sparse, and allows horses to roam and nibble.
Comet's sparse pasture has exhausted him with all of the walking.
But, if you can manage to maintain two paddocks with grass (you will need to rest them eventually), the benefits to your horses are great!
- Horses will usually eat, instead of bombing around and slamming into gates and giving their owners small heart attacks. And, they typically eat all the time, so there is something in their digestive system more often, a bonus for so many reasons!
- It’s a great distraction for the horse on stall rest, too. Hand walks can be boring and dangerous for the horse on stall rest, hand grazing is a great big horse salad distraction.
- Small paddocks of grass usually drain much better than dirt lots, and can handle much more rain. Bonus for bad weather! Beware the "runners", as wet pastures are easily chewed up and you may find yourself pretending you are at a polo match stomping divots.
- It’s easy to set up sprinkler systems to keep grass all year long in smaller grass paddocks if your climate requires that. For windy areas, keep sprinkler heads near the ground as the wind can carry that water away!
Sometimes there's too much of a good thing.
On the other hand,
- They can be slippery if they need constant water because you live in the desert. Or, if you live in a location that gets a lot of rain, or if the "soil" is more clay like which is slicker than snot even without rain.
- Water for sprinklers is often regulated by the water districts, and in times of drought you may have a dry lot. Which is fine! Dry lots are great for some horses.
- Grass paddocks that are crazy thick and dense and ankle deep are not always ideal. These allow your horse to gorge on grass, instead of mimicking the foraging nature of horses. (the photo below of a grass schmorgasborg that's likely too much for many horses!)
Looks like a giant horse salad - not ideal for some horses, though!
- Green stains. Not the end of the world, but still. Green stains. (Tips for removing aformentioned green stains can be found here!)
- Grass paddocks are not always suitable for the horse with metabolic diseases or the horse with a history of laminitis. As with everything related to horses, please talk to your Veterinarian. You can get some more information about this topic here.
Muzzles are super for the horse that needs a little (or a lot) less grass.
How does your horse do on a grass pasture?