There are several reasons that may prevent horse owners from owning their dream properties. Whether finances are a restriction or the local community is heavily populated, many horse owners have to sustain horses on a small amount of acres. Even without rolling hills of pastures, operating a successful equestrian facility is still a possibility. There are a few things to keep in mind though.

Be aware of the horse-per-acre ratio. You must be aware of how many acres are needed to provide your horse will enough pasture. The ratio is highly variable though. It depends on the type of grass in the pasture, the soil, the expected amount of hours grazed, pasture management, and the weather. In some cases, one horse only requires 1 acre, if the pasture is good. Yet if the pasture is poor, one horse might need 2.5 acres.

Achieving Success on Small Acreage

Achieving Success on Small Acreage

Before moving onto the property, plan the use of each acre, including any future plans. If the property is only land, the plan should include the barn, driveway, house, yard, arena, manure area, hay storage, trailer parking, etc. You must also take into account that horse people are fantastic at acquiring things. We are infamous at somehow acquiring more horses, tack, dogs, trailers, equipment, etc. It is commonly seen that a horse owner will move onto a property expecting to have 2 horses. Yet if you were to stop by that property a few years later, they will probably have around 4. So make sure to consider the difference between what you hope to have and what you will probably end up with.


Once living on the property, maintaining the pastures are crucial. Overgrazed pastures easily loose topsoil and are slow to grow back. Making sure your soil is fertile and balanced can be difficult to achieve. Soil tests (usually around $50) can show what your soils lack and what fertilizers can be effectively utilized. Removing manure will help your pastures and remembering to mow them will prevent the grass from seeding and becoming dormant.

On a small property, weather can be a huge challenge! Grazing horses on wet pasture destroys the footing and take months to regrow. A reasonably sized lot with a mud-free footing (sand, gravel) is useful for rainy, wet weeks.

Storage limitations will likely arise. Rather than being able to store hay and grain for long periods of time, monthly deliveries will be more reasonable. Also consider hiring a manure disposal company. It conserves space and increases efficiency.

The horses on your property must be compatible as well. The space is not available to divide a horse to every pasture. If you know that you have an uncooperative horse consider making two small paddocks with an adjoining fence. If your horses are getting along, opening adjoining gate can create a large pasture.

A strict parasite management plan is a requirement. On condensed acres, internal parasites easily get out of control. Feed hay and grain off the ground because it reduces the mixing of food with manure. Picking up manure regularly from pastures reduces parasite numbers. Additionally, create a worming plan or conduct fecal counts to determine what dewormers are necessary.


By Anna Hellman


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