Horse Pastures for Texas

Dorsett, D., Householder, D.

In the natural setting, the horse is a nonruminant herbivore and grazes high quality forage to supply daily nutritional needs. High quality forages provide energy, protein, vitamins and minerals for horses. Older horses with fully developed digestive tracts utilize forages more efficiently than younger horses; however, younger horses must consume forage for maximal development of the gastrointestinal tract. Nutrient requirements of horses vary, and all horses need high quality forage in the daily diet to prevent digestive disturbances. While hay is traditionally fed to confined horses, pasture can be used to provide forage economically in the daily diet and in a healthy environment. Traditionally, only larger farms develop pasture programs, but horse owners with small acreage can also establish and effectively utilize pastures in equine feeding management programs. It is fortunate that in Texas there is a wide variety of forages that can be grown during different periods of the year to furnish grazing on a year-round basis. By using the proper combination of different forages, horses can be successfully pastured most of the year. Using a combination of forages complicates pasture management, but it allows the horseman to provide sufficient high quality forage necessary to meet all or most of his horses' nutritional requirements. This publication provides helpful suggestions for establishing and utilizing pastures in either large or small horse operations.