High Hopes is lucky enough to have over 20 acres of fenced paddocks and pastures. The various fields accommodate herd sizes from single horses up to our largest field, Yellow, which has room for 8 horses.
While we do have some smaller paddocks that do not have an attached grass pasture for grazing, our larger multi horse paddocks are designed to have access to the larger grass fields for seasonal grazing.
While it may seem like the ‘natural’ choice to allow our horses to eat grass free-choice, grass can be quite high in sugars which is not a great option for some of our older horses who have metabolic conditions (similar to diabetes in humans). Our fields are fertilized and grow lovely green turf that is very different from what horses evolved to eat – which would more closely resemble rough, fibrous, less calorie dense forages. Because of this we do limit the access to the grazing fields to a few hours, and keep the horses in their less grassy, smaller paddocks with hay to eat for the remainder of the day. Some of our horses are not allowed access to grass at all if they are especially sensitive to the sugars, while others still may be seen sporting a grazing muzzle which only allows them to get a small bite of grass through a hole in the bottom below their lips (don’t worry – they can still breathe and drink normally through the muzzle).
If we allowed the horses to have unlimited access to the grazing fields, not only might it make them sick, but they would damage the grass plants and likely kill them by overgrazing. This would result in barren fields that at worst would be subject to erosion and at best would be an eyesore.
Our large paddock system allows us to customize a grazing and rotation system that suits the health and dietary needs of each of our horses, as well as their social needs from living solo with neighbors over the fence or in a herd.