Paddock Grasses: A Primer

Horse paddock grass is made of a mix of grasses blended together that are more durable than conventional pasture grass. Paddock grasses must withstand the higher pressures associated with horseshoes and torsional forces from rapid changes in direction. 

Types Of Grass In Typical Horse Paddock Seed Mixes

Horse paddock seed grasses are specially selected for their durable properties. Grasses are perennial and require regular, minimal irrigation in the absence of rainfall. 

Types of grass seed in typical sowing mixes include:

  • Diploid Italian ryegrass
  • Bermudagrass
  • Pasture type bluegrass
  • Tall fescue

The precise composition of grass mixes will alter, depending on the research and development findings of the vendor. Tall fescue dominates paddock seed mixes, with diploid Italian ryegrass, pasture Kentucky bluegrass, and bermudagrass comprising a smaller percentage. 

Suitable Edible Grasses For Horses

Examples of high quality grass seed by Grass Seed Online are suitable for paddocks including those mentioned above, plus endophyte-free tall fescue and timothy. These mixes are often the product of experimentation processes in which breeders have learned to balance durability with taste. Horses, for instance, seem to dislike any paddock grass mix in which orchard grass comprises more than 30 percent. 

Grass length appears to be a determining factor in whether horses find a particular species palatable. Horses prefer shorter grasses because they are lower in fibre and higher in protein. If breeders plant taller species of grass, they may be able to improve the nutritional quality by mowing regularly. The action of mowing appears to force most species to adapt by increasing the concentration of nutrients in their tissues. 

Excessive Grass Consumption

Without supplemental feed, horses are prone to excessive grass consumption. Unlike the bovine gut, the equine stomach is less able to break down the tough cellulose in grass stems, increasing the risk of colic. Horses may experience spasmodic gas buildup in their intestinal tracts if they consume more grass than they are accustomed to eating. 

Breeders and owners should note that horses are at the highest risk when they make sudden changes in their diets. If animals increase their grass consumption rapidly (moving off regular grain-based feeds) gas may increase, leading to discomfort and lower performance. 

Paddock Topping

Horse breeders recommend topping paddocks at least once per year,  either during the spring or summer. However, experts recommend against topping too frequently. Encouraging the grass to grow more than twice per year can damage its root system, making it less robust to horse trampling. Optimal topping ensures that turf develops more densely by increasing leaf growth. It may also decrease the ability of weeds to grow. 

Paddock Mowing

Horses can keep paddock grass short if left outside in most seasons. However, owners who intend to keep their horses in stables should consider mowing. Clipping increases the nutritive value of grass and encourages the plant to replace its leaves, rather than going to seed. Overall grass quality remains high. 

Repeated mowing also reduces the ability of competitive weeds to grow in the grass. Weeds cannot develop seed heads and eventually die out. 

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