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The Proper Care of Pastures Damaged By Drought

When a summer drought hits your area, you know that your grazing horses will be affected. Even the moisture of winter will only go so far when it comes to undoing the damage of the drought.
You will still have bare patches and other bad areas where grass has died off or thinned considerably. Some of the problem may be mitigated if you fertilize your pasture toward the end of March or even the beginning of April – be sure to run soil testing before fertilizing so you know what your soil needs – yet if you are looking at large areas where grass has died away, only reseeding will help. Of course, since you want the grass to grow quickly, it is important that you drill it in rather than just scatter it over the surface, where much of it either gets eaten up by birds or simply does not sprout for lack of moisture.
As you are purchasing grass seeds, keep in mind that not all mixes are created equal. As a matter of fact, the rates of germination vary, and several of them – especially the ones manufactured for home use – contain fescue which should not be allowed on your pasture. When you are putting down the seed, do not do so sparingly but instead err on the side of over-seeding to ensure that a lot of the grass will take root. Obviously, you do want to give the grass a chance to grow, and your horses should be kept away from reseeded or fertilized areas.

The downside of this practice rests in the fact that your pasture will not be open for use for quite a while, sometimes as long as three months, if extensive reseeding is involved. If you have a rather large pasture, you may wish to consider simply closing off the areas that are currently under construction so that the horses will still be able to enjoy grazing in the other areas. If you have only a small pasture or if the entire pasture is affected and needs to be worked on, then you need to seriously consider which alternate forages you will be able to feed to your horses. Some horse owners may consider boarding their animals, while others may be able to have their horses graze on nearby pastures with the owner’s permission. As a matter of fact, for a small payment many horse owners will be happy to permit a horse to be a grazing “guest” on their pastures – one never knows when such a favor might need to be returned!

Read the next horse pasture article on Pasture Basics.
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