Mulching horse pastures is fundamentally important to provide nutrients to the soil in a natural way. But can the mulch be harmful to them?
That depends on several factors, such as the type of mulch and if so, when are horses allowed back into the mulched pasture?
We’ll answer these and more questions about mulching the paddock here.
In this article you will learn whether horses are allowed on mulched meadows and which conditions must be met. We will also show you the possible dangers and why mulching is still good for the soil – if it is done correctly.
Are horses allowed on mulched meadows?
This depends on several factors, which we will discuss here. These include:
Thickness of the mulch layer
Type of mulch
Time since mulching
As a basic rule, however, it can be said that horses should not go directly onto freshly mulched meadows. This is because the risks associated with this are extremely high.
What are the dangers of mulched meadows?
Mowing with mulch or separately mulching green cuttings produces very small pieces.
These decompose more quickly and, in combination with moisture, ferment in a short time.
This is ideal for the nutrient supply and the quality of the soil. For one thing, the plant parts release nutrients into the substrate as they decompose.
On the other hand, microorganisms are promoted in the soil, which have a positive effect.
As a result, the meadow grows better and is more resistant. This is particularly important in paddocks, as they are subjected to enormous stresses from weight and grazing alone.
For horses, however, mulch is potentially dangerous.
This is true even if it is exclusively grasses.
This is because mulch quickly ferments in the gastrointestinal tract due to moisture, which can cause colic. The faulty fermentations then produce, among other things:
In severe cases and if treatment is delayed, colic can be life threatening. Veterinary treatment is required in all cases.
Type of mulch as a hazard
When a paddock is mowed and the clippings are made into mulch, the process can also chop up plants that are dangerous to your horse.
Normally, horses will leave anything that creates incompatibilities or is contaminated by animal droppings, for example.
Mulching mixes these potentially hazardous materials together and spreads them everywhere.
This can result in horses not grazing at all, or ingesting unsuitable substances in the process that cause health problems.
Layer thickness as a decisive factor
The layer thickness plays a decisive role in two respects.
On the one hand, a thick mulch layer of just five centimeters can suffocate the plants growing underneath. The subsequent reseeding can then no longer be avoided – but means increased effort.
Secondly, the time required for drying and incorporation is considerably longer if the layer is thick.
An airy and even distribution eliminates these problems. Therefore, it is also advisable to carry out mulching regularly and thus only spread small amounts of cuttings.
Alternatives to mulching
Mulching is a very natural, inexpensive and practical method of fertilizing a meadow.
Instead of an alternative for it, an adapted approach is recommended.
This means regular and frequent mucking out, mowing and changing sections.
Subdividing the meadow helps to ensure that the grass plants can recover after maintenance and are not overstressed.
In addition, after mulching, new use can wait until the mulch is well decomposed and no longer a hazard to horses.
To further accelerate this process, it is worthwhile to open the turf by scarifying. This measure also serves to incorporate the mulch and reduce weeds and moss. In addition, water can drain away better and the risk of silting is reduced.
When are horses allowed on a mulched meadow?
The mulch should be completely decomposed or well incorporated and the grass should have grown back underneath.
Depending on the weather, temperature and soil quality, this can take weeks to months.
This is another reason why it is important to rotate more frequently and divide the lawn into sections.
This way, a section can recover and lie fallow without posing a threat to your animals.
The quality of the pasture is thus significantly increased.
Horses and mulch
As long as your horse does not ingest mulch, it does not pose a danger to the animal.
However, it cannot be safely avoided in the paddock if your horse is unobserved.
Therefore, always separate mulched areas. This gives the meadow time to regenerate and reduces the necessary effort for maintenance in the long term.
My name is Mark and the senior editor
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