New! Breakthrough Yard System Discovered

muddy field

At last a breakthrough Yard System has been discovered (goodbye muddy gateways, poor grazing and obesity; hello healthy horses, healthy land!)

“This was a Fab event,” said Branwen Sloper, “it’s motivated me to change my pasture. I’d also like to try mixing my own grass seed and add some herb patches to it.”

At a recent seminar led by pasture and behaviour specialist Jane Myers, Branwen and other South Wales horse owners discovered ways to make their yards work better for them and their horses.

Jane is at home in Wales, having done her MSc in Equine Studies at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, but she has travelled extensively. After graduation she became involved in a variety of impressive horse projects and in 2011 received a fellowship awarded by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust. This award allowed her to travel to the USA to study Sustainable Horse Keeping Management Systems.

Jane is on a mission to ease the lives of people and horses. No stranger to challenges in her own life, she was born with 70% hearing loss but that hasn’t stopped her from becoming a sought after international speaker.

Organising the event was not all plain sailing. In the UK most people don’t own their own land and feel their hands are tied when it comes to management of land. “We have no input on pasture management” They say “We’re beholden to landowners!” We get that, honestly…

BUT eventually yards will have to adapt to meet the changing needs of today’s horses. New ideas, and older ones which have been reinvented, will filter through because owners are weary of problems like muddy environments with the accompanying skin and hoof problems, high worm burdens, soaring feed/forage bills due to insufficient grass or, too much of the wrong type.

The first step in solving the problems of horses that live in traditional “field system” yards is talking about the issues and looking at solutions. Jane and her husband Stuart generated much needed discussion during the seminar, and covered a colossal amount of material in just 2 hours.

A big area of concern for those in attendance was how to better manage weight for “good doers”. People are also interested in learning about grasses and which varieties are best for horses. Jane agreed there is confusion about horses and grasses. “Much of the information out there has come from agriculture, the aim being to increase an animal’s weight. Seed providers need to understand that pastures for horses are different than those for cattle.” Testing forage also makes perfect sense.

The “grass” question gets asked constantly and we have since run it by researcher Dr. Carol Michael who is involved in studies relating to obesity in horses. She agrees that weight management for horses is a challenging issue.

“I haven’t found a grass mix I can recommend yet as we are still involved in a process of identification using the seed banks at Ibers. It will be another 12 months or more until we can be sure we have separated out the lowest sugar varieties. The best advice at the moment is to plant as many low quality grass types such as Yorkshire Fog, and Meadow Fescue, but also encourage herbs shrubs and flowers to take over at least half the field.”

Dr Michael goes on to advise caution when buying grass seed. “Make sure the grass can be clearly identified from source as the more modern varieties have been manipulated to have continuously high sugar levels even though they are marketed as suitable for pony paddocks.”

In conclusion, she says she’ll be in a better position to advise on this subject later next year.

A huge thank you to the event sponsors

Cotts Equine Vets, Bridgend a new veterinary practice dedicated to the care of horses, ponies and donkeys in South Wales http://www.cottsequine.co.uk/ tel 01656 750035

Arthur John, Agricultural Merchants of Cowbridge http://www.arthurjohn.co.uk/

Merial UK – Smart worming resources FREE at http://www.smartworming.co.uk/

JFC Feeders and drinkers http://jfcagri.com/equine/

Dengie

Horse weighing service available – for South West and South Wales contact Bryoni on 07738699442 .For other areas contact www.dengie.com

Jane Myers is a regular contributor to Love Horses Magazine.

www.lovehorsesmagazine.co.uk

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