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View Full Version : How steep of a grade is okay for a pasture?



4Martini
Apr. 7, 2011, 03:59 PM
I'm going to look at a really long shot foreclosure today. I know it's on a hill (Part of it would probably be considered a mountain more than a hill.) I'm wondering how steep is reasonable for a pasture? Anything else to consider? (truth is, I probably wouldn't move my horse home even if we bought the place, but in case I lost my job in the future or something I'd like to know it's a possibility.)
Thanks!

Alagirl
Apr. 7, 2011, 04:10 PM
you can go pretty steep. I wish I had the picture here I took from my grandma's farm...that back pasture was STEEP. best sledding hill in the country, and all private! :)

Anyhow, took a picture of a horse grazing...like a mountain goat.:cool:

Of course, that is WAY scary to navigate in a tractor or such...

RougeEmpire
Apr. 7, 2011, 05:48 PM
Yep horses can handle pretty darn steep inclines. Unless your horse is a UBER fragile I say the steeper the better! Makes for fit horses that know how to use their feet!

Daydream Believer
Apr. 7, 2011, 06:22 PM
After a visit to Switzerland a year ago, truly almost vertical will work if you animals can cope.

suz
Apr. 7, 2011, 06:31 PM
i think hills are quite good for critters. i live on the side of a mountain, adjacent to a ski area if that gives you an idea of how steep. my haflingers of course thrive on this mountain, as do the goats, and any old timers or lame horses have done quite well using the switchbacks to get around. it's excellent for balance and muscle development, but hell on tractors or mowing.
ours is also heavily wooded, so i feed hay year round. the plus side of this is that my air ferns get plenty of exercise while i get to monitor what they eat.
hills with varied plants are way far superior to lush grass pastures in my book.

ReSomething
Apr. 7, 2011, 08:29 PM
I'd love a gently rolling lay of the land, but I don't have it. Didn't have it when I was young either. The horses will make little trails on the contours, your only problem is that a steep pasture is really easy to ruin and harder to keep up. You have to learn to mow by backing up the hill, it takes twice as long because you only get a good cut going forward.

We try to keep them penned up when it is too wet and slippery because they can hurt themselves, they slide and skid the grass roots right out, and heavy rain will erode any exposed dirt very fast. My immediate area is NOT the gorgeous bluegrass horse farms you see in postcards.

Take a look and see if there isn't an area you can grade flat or if you haven't got a ridgetop or creek bottom. You can look at USGS topo maps on Terraserver.com, their free pics have watermarks but you can make out quite a bit and for $30 you can get a subscription and print off clear pics - they charge extra for downloads.

I've seen a steep boulder strewn place made into one of those pasture paradise setups where they just made an endless trail with haying stations, I think it was pretty good for the horses actually.

tangledweb
Apr. 7, 2011, 10:02 PM
If the grade is more than 30 degrees tell your farrier. He will trim the left hooves half an inch shorter than the right to prevent horses developing long and short legs.

Daydream Believer
Apr. 7, 2011, 11:38 PM
One thing I did learn in Switzerland is that when it's wet and muddy, they do not turn the animals out. The horses stay in small lots with improved footing and the cows stay inside. They are very aware of land conservation issues and preventing erosion and contamination of water downhill from the farms. They don't even spread manure over there until the governments says it's OK to do so..the weather is right, etc..

My point is that the steeper land will be more a management challenge than less steeply graded land. Something to consider in your decision process. It can be done but may take more effort on your part.

horsepoor
Apr. 8, 2011, 12:10 AM
I'm on a hillside. We didn't really buy this to be "horse property" but I have horses, I hate boarding, so horses are here! I'm not crazy about the sloped pastures -- we have clay soil here and it gets really slick with all the rain, so I am a lot more careful about keeping the horses off the pasture than I might be if it was flatter. But being on slope also means that we have drainage -- water runs down the slope, so you don't have as much ponding and wet spots.

I also deal with a big change in elevation from our house to the barn. Didn't seem so bad 10 years ago when we bought the place, but now as I get older, that hike up the hill does get tiring! And the slide down the hill in the muck gets more treacherous.

As someone mentioned, being on a hillside does make some things like mowing more challenging. It also affected our choice of fencing because my first choice, no-climb with a top board, is impossible to make look good when you are going over irregular ground.

Personally, I would not want to go with any thing more sloped than what we have now -- which is about 15% at the most extremes in the pasture area (more in other areas, like the path to the house). But sometimes you can find some flat spots even on a hillside. I have a couple of pretty nice flattish areas here that I hope to make into an arena. If we stay...

shakeytails
Apr. 8, 2011, 12:29 PM
If the grade is more than 30 degrees tell your farrier. He will trim the left hooves half an inch shorter than the right to prevent horses developing long and short legs.

:lol::lol::lol:

You can sometimes actually get people to believe that cows on hillside farms in NY and New England have shorter legs on one side!

Alagirl
Apr. 8, 2011, 12:47 PM
One thing I did learn in Switzerland is that when it's wet and muddy, they do not turn the animals out. The horses stay in small lots with improved footing and the cows stay inside. They are very aware of land conservation issues and preventing erosion and contamination of water downhill from the farms. They don't even spread manure over there until the governments says it's OK to do so..the weather is right, etc..

My point is that the steeper land will be more a management challenge than less steeply graded land. Something to consider in your decision process. It can be done but may take more effort on your part.

Yes, Switzerland and Austria are extreme in these matters. But then again, they will be up a creek without a paddle should the hillside slide down into town....it's basic survival measures. :lol:

fordtraktor
Apr. 8, 2011, 12:48 PM
I grew up in West Virginia and we farm on hills that farmers in Indiana wouldn't drive. :lol: My dad did roll the round baler once, and been on some wild rides down hills. They have seat belts and roll bars for a reason.

We had a hill that rivalled the one in the the Man from Snowy River in the cow pasture. Once I ran off it with my pony when I provoked the bull. I hate going downhill at speed and I can still see that drop! Like a roller coaster.

Horses are fine. They make paths back and forth on the mountain, rarely go straight down. They often go straight up!

katie+tru
Apr. 8, 2011, 01:18 PM
Yes, Switzerland and Austria are extreme in these matters. But then again, they will be up a creek without a paddle should the hillside slide down into town....it's basic survival measures. :lol:



Totally agree with not turning horses out on slippery hillsides... or any wet/icy/snowy pasture. Too great a risk. Here in SE PA the footing is pretty god awful during the winter and early spring. It's not even that safe for people to be running around on sometimes. We just turn out in the arena until the ground dries out enough.

You know what's awful? People really have a problem with that idea. We've had people inquire about boarding over the winter and when my trainer/BO explains our turnout situation they don't get it at all. She alway ends up telling them the little story about how a few years back our one vet (from the biggest equine hospital in the Pittsburgh area) was out here in the winter and told her that he had euth'ed 6 horses in the past week or two because people were insisting on turning them out in the snow and wetness.

Tamara in TN
Apr. 8, 2011, 01:27 PM
ever seen the Alpine meadows? they would be just fine :)
Tamara



I'm going to look at a really long shot foreclosure today. I know it's on a hill (Part of it would probably be considered a mountain more than a hill.) I'm wondering how steep is reasonable for a pasture? Anything else to consider? (truth is, I probably wouldn't move my horse home even if we bought the place, but in case I lost my job in the future or something I'd like to know it's a possibility.)
Thanks!

fordtraktor
Apr. 8, 2011, 02:10 PM
We have been turning our horses out daily in snow and wet, and on hillsides, for 20 years and never had an incident because of it.

On the other hand, I have seen horses euth'ed because they were kept up in too small an area, never turned out then lost it playing in a small paddock with good footing and broke a leg. Sad but predictable.

I do really have a problem with keeping the horses up all winter and only turning out for limited times in an arena. I would not board somewhere with that kind of turnout situation. I think it is sad for the horses that such places exist.

Alagirl
Apr. 8, 2011, 02:28 PM
you have to play it by ear. Not every horse is like the other, soil conditions can vary, even on the same property.

Most horses do fine on a slope. But there are downsides, as mentioned above. And if you are not used to run machinery on a steep hillside, things can get ugly (and somewhat dangerous. But then again, I am amazed that in the US you still can buy tractors without rollbar...been legal standart in Germany for over 20 years)

Also, weather conditions are never the same. That last snow we had her ein Bama, I don't think I would have turned out in that, as it had a pretty good sheet of ice on top. I also think that kneedeep mud is not favorable...but that's just it. Horses have been known to commit suicide in padded stall...

Chall
Apr. 8, 2011, 02:43 PM
My horses went from relatively flat pastures to 24/7 quite hilly. The barn insisted that they, retirees, get borium shoes (after 15 years of barefoot). Given the mud/snow/ice and steep hills the borium shoes are probably a good call.

kookicat
Apr. 8, 2011, 08:11 PM
Part of my land is on a pretty good slope. The horses rarely graze that bit, but have no problem with it when I turn them out there. (I just don't like using it because there's no water supply to that field.)

Daydream Believer
Apr. 8, 2011, 09:32 PM
My friends in Switzerland who imported 5 Spanish Mustangs now (to include two of my fillies) tell how funny it was when the farm they boarded their Spanish Mustangs at first turned out their newly imported "Indianer Pferds" (Indian Horses) in one of the very steep pastures. I guess the locals thought the American horses would not do well and quite a few of the locals turned out to see the American horses fall down the hillside. They underestimated the canny little food motivated Spanish Mustangs who soon figured out how to graze on the very steep slope by doing it head upward, front legs splayed sideways to keep them balanced and hind legs braced to hold their weight. I guess they impressed a few Swiss farmers with their ability to move like mountain goats sideways crabwise on the steep hills. Swiss horses are typically Warmbloodlike and bigger...more utility beasts and while surefooted, they are not known for being quite that maneuverable.

They are also legendary escape artists. The Swiss were woefully unprepared for the arrival of the clever Spanish Mustangs and several of their adventures in the Swiss countryside have entertained a lot of people over a stein of beer.

I truly enjoyed the Swiss folks. They have a fantastic sense of humor and are a tough hardy people themselves. I have a ton of respect for how well they manage their incredibly beautiful county.

http://i97.photobucket.com/albums/l215/ssluss/OFFA/P4070056.jpg

Alagirl
Apr. 8, 2011, 09:53 PM
My friends in Switzerland who imported 5 Spanish Mustangs now (to include two of my fillies) tell how funny it was when the farm they boarded their Spanish Mustangs at first turned out their newly imported "Indianer Pferds" (Indian Horses) in one of the very steep pastures. I guess the locals thought the American horses would not do well and quite a few of the locals turned out to see the American horses fall down the hillside. They underestimated the canny little food motivated Spanish Mustangs who soon figured out how to graze on the very steep slope by doing it head upward, front legs splayed sideways to keep them balanced and hind legs braced to hold their weight. I guess they impressed a few Swiss farmers with their ability to move like mountain goats sideways crabwise on the steep hills. Swiss horses are typically Warmbloodlike and bigger...more utility beasts and while surefooted, they are not known for being quite that maneuverable.

They are also legendary escape artists. The Swiss were woefully unprepared for the arrival of the clever Spanish Mustangs and several of their adventures in the Swiss countryside have entertained a lot of people over a stein of beer.

I truly enjoyed the Swiss folks. They have a fantastic sense of humor and are a tough hardy people themselves. I have a ton of respect for how well they manage their incredibly beautiful county.

http://i97.photobucket.com/albums/l215/ssluss/OFFA/P4070056.jpg

ah, that's the crocket lawn! :cool:

Daydream Believer
Apr. 8, 2011, 11:02 PM
I could sit on my porch and look at the view a long long time before it got old. That mountain was Tantis (has an umlat over the a but I have no idea how to do that on this computer). It's pronouned like Zantis...kind of a TS sound.

Alagirl
Apr. 8, 2011, 11:06 PM
I could sit on my porch and look at the view a long long time before it got old. That mountain was Tantis (has an umlat over the a but I have no idea how to do that on this computer). It's pronouned like Zantis...kind of a TS sound.


Ah, yes, I know what you mean, your eyes are just not big enough to take it all in....

suz
Apr. 9, 2011, 08:53 AM
lol, those swiss must not have had any native mountain ponies around---like the haflingers or black forest ponies.
still i'd give my eye teeth (what are those anyway) to wake up to a view like that someday.
as it is, i did laugh one winter day when both of my haffies were rolling in the snow and sliding down the hill while doing so---i think they were really having a blast doing so, cuz they'd get to the bottom and head back up for more.
wish i had a video of that.

Alagirl
Apr. 9, 2011, 01:20 PM
They have a breed very similar to the hafflinger. I think Tirol just has the better PR machine...:)

But Switzerland is very different from Austria...3 prominent ethnic groups, with their own language...the valleys are very isolated...I think - but I could be wrong - Austria is a bit more open ...

Daydream Believer
Apr. 9, 2011, 02:59 PM
The Swiss national breed is the Freiburger. It looks much like a drafty sort of WB...smaller than some WBs..low 16 hand range and sturdy. I know their military uses them to pack equipment into the mountains and still has a Farrier Corp. I got to meet the Swiss Army Farriers. That is another story though...how the petite woman American trimmer met the Swiss macho male farriers and we all got along great! :D :cool:

They did have some haflingers at the expo we were at but I did not see that many in the countryside. I noticed mostly Freiburgers. The Spanish Mustangs were quite unique. I do remember some American Paints also.

The Swiss are very insular and at that one expo you could clearly see the differences. I heard French, Italian, German and Swiss-German spoken...and if you really want to get the Swiss going, mention Germans. :oThey do not get along well. Long memories and grudges I think.

They did get a major kick out of the "Indianer Pferds" and I had a blast over there at that expo. There's talk of doing another one in a year or two so maybe I'll get to go back.

Alagirl
Apr. 9, 2011, 03:14 PM
Now that you mention it, I think the breed I thought of was from Sued Tirol, which is Italy :lol:

They'd rather be German tho... crazy Europeans! :winkgrin:

carolprudm
Apr. 9, 2011, 04:40 PM
My pasture rises over 60 feet from top to bottom. The horses rarely have a problem with it. Hiking from bottom to top is like climbing up the stairs in an 8 story building

The main issue is finding flat places to build on but yup, great sledding in the winter

tangledweb
Apr. 9, 2011, 04:41 PM
You know what's awful? People really have a problem with that idea. We've had people inquire about boarding over the winter and when my trainer/BO explains our turnout situation they don't get it at all.

Awful isn't it. I struggle to even imagine the concept that there might be otherwise rational adults who think that half an hour a day of turnout in an arena is a less than an ideal situation for their horse. Amazing that people can disagree on that topic.

FalseImpression
Apr. 9, 2011, 11:53 PM
That mountain was Tantis (has an umlat over the a but I have no idea how to do that on this computer). It's pronounced like Zantis...kind of a TS sound.


ä = alt 0228 ä

I never tire of the view of the Alps, but I have also fallen in love with the Pyrennees where the horses/cows/sheep/donkeys are let loose in the spring/summer and can travel pretty steep slopes. However, they are smart and use the roads to rest!

Daydream Believer
Apr. 10, 2011, 08:51 AM
When I do "alt a" on this keyboard I get a å instead. This is a Mac. Does that matter?

katie+tru
Apr. 10, 2011, 12:28 PM
Awful isn't it. I struggle to even imagine the concept that there might be otherwise rational adults who think that half an hour a day of turnout in an arena is a less than an ideal situation for their horse. Amazing that people can disagree on that topic.


We turn out for much longer though. All day or night even. Besides, I'd rather see my horse turned out for only a couple hours in an arena than out all day in a steep, slick pasture where it could be seriously harmed. It's the best option on the property. The front pasture has a steep slope that get waters collecting in a little stream at the bottom. Basically a ski slope into a mud hole in the winter. Back pasture is much bigger, much less of a slope, but gets very, very wet and slippery. We already had a mare suffer permanent stifle damage due to what the vet believes was a bad slip (he think she actually did a split in the back) out there.

There are other safer forms of exercise and enrichment besides turning out on iffy pasture.

ReSomething
Apr. 10, 2011, 01:28 PM
I'll agree with you K+T.

But, the other thing is just what are you looking for in a pasture? Good grass to eat or roaming room or both or what?

My neighbors turn out 24/7 and their horses self limit their activities during excessive mud, not enough that the pasture grasses haven't suffered serious degradation and the pasture itself suffered serious erosion in spots over time. I guess I will have to finally get out the camera and figure it all out to show you all the small gullies that have formed along the fenceline on their side and the dry lot characteristics in a seven acre(!) pasture located "in the Bluegrass".

If as DB says, the Swiss utilize mountain goat pastures but confine their animals to carefully prepared areas during mud season and that is how their pastures have been able to be used productively for centuries then that says a lot to me.

FalseImpression
Apr. 10, 2011, 02:22 PM
When I do "alt a" on this keyboard I get a å instead. This is a Mac. Does that matter?

I thought everything was easier on a Mac. Not so it seems. I tried googling "alt codes on a mac"... :confused: Maybe, the easiest would be to copy and paste. Copy my symbol and bookmark it/save it. Then use it when you need it. Command c and command v

My husband has a Mac and it drives me nuts when he asks... "How do I do this?".. I used to have Macs though, but I forgot...

I have seen horses on very steep hills in the lower Pyrenees, but I would really like to have a flat spot too in the pastures.

karlymacrae
Apr. 10, 2011, 07:07 PM
I thought everything was easier on a Mac.

It is!! http://www.mactricksandtips.com/2007/06/using-apples-character-pallet.html

Alagirl
Apr. 10, 2011, 08:50 PM
ah POOP! <facepalm>

The universally accepted way to fudge the umlaut is to put an e behind the vowel!

dates back to the days when type writes didn't have the double dot on the keys....

Daydream Believer
Apr. 10, 2011, 09:08 PM
Hmmm...I still can't quite get mine figured out. I'm not the most computer savvy person. My system preferences don't quite look like that webpage.

Thanks for all of you trying to help though.

Ruby G. Weber
Apr. 10, 2011, 09:37 PM
Try not to put the gate at the bottom of the hill.

Lyric
Apr. 11, 2011, 05:33 PM
Mac keyboard shortcuts. :)

http://www.forlang.wsu.edu/help/keyboards2.asp

ä = hold "option" and press "u", release them both then press "a".

Daydream Believer
Apr. 11, 2011, 06:09 PM
ä It works! Look! Great work Lyric! Thanks!

I'm bookmarking that page. Thanks again!