Yes, admittedly I do love the show, but that’s not what I wanted to discuss today. In the horse world, we tend to readily share our thoughts, opinions, experiences, and anything else that comes to mind. In many cases, this is one of the best parts of our equine community, but it can also be our downfall. This game of telephone is how rumors get spread and horse myths become legends. I’m here to put a couple of them back in their place.
MYTH: Spreading manure out on the pasture increases parasite load.
See?! I started with one that already has you boiling a little. I start with this one because of the wonderful season we are in, SUMMER! If you are experiencing some extremely hot days that are too high THI for you and your horse to enjoy together, think about flinging some poo or getting the drag up and going. These temperatures can act as an ally and “cook” those pesky parasite eggs deposited on the pasture. Exposing them to extreme temperatures can help stop their life cycle and decrease overall parasite load on the pasture. Be careful! This is only effective if the temperatures are over 90 F, so don’t wait until a nice cool day or you will in fact be spreading the parasite love.
MYTH: Bahiagrass should not be utilized for horses due to low nutrient quality.
This is one of my favorites because it’s simply not true. Bahiagrass does inherently have lower nutrient quality as a whole when compared to forages such as tall fescue or even bermudagrass. However, nutrient quality of bahia can be improved by cultivar choice and pasture management all while sparing your pocket book when compared to some of the alternatives. Another added benefit of bahia is its ability to establish from seed. Just in case that didn’t sell you on it, the lower nutrient profile can be a major plus when you have easy keepers or those prone to metabolic diseases.
MYTH: You should not have clover in your horse pasture.
Moderation is key! Doesn’t it seem like that should be a bumper sticker? Clover, such as white clover, is a legume that fixes nitrogen in the soil. This gives a nice soil quality boost to your pasture just by existing. Clover can also help to extend some
grazing seasons. It can cause some unpleasant effects in horses such as slobbers and false lactation, so yes, it’s best to not plant the entire pasture in clover, but having some to benefit the soil and even pollinators is not a bad idea. Shoot for no more than 25% of the grazable pasture to be clover. And yes, horses tend to think it is delicious!
MYTH: If it is a toxic plant, horses will not eat it.
You guessed it, this is also a myth. Thankfully some horses do leave toxic plants alone. However, some get curious and just have to have a taste… Horses can nibble out of boredom or by accident. Young horses learn their environment through putting it in
their mouths much like humans, so do not take this one for granted. It might be on accident or because they were curious or even because that was the only plant they could reach from their stall door. Keep all toxic plants out of reach of horses.
MYTH: Color is an accurate measure of a hay’s quality.
Unfortunately, it seems we all become connoisseurs of the fine art of hay guessing when it comes to our horses. In reality, the only way to truly determine the quality of forage is to test. Keep in mind certain forages have their own unique characteristics that like to throw off our typical feed store measures such as perennial peanut hay rivaling alfalfa in quality yet largely being brown in color. Simple “field tests” such as smelling a flake and scouting for insects is valuable to inspect for blister beetles and mold, but nothing replaces forage testing and the quality that comes from analysis.
Next time you are sharing bits of wisdom that have been handed down from generation to generation of horseman and women, take a moment to consider if it is based in experience or scientific fact. If you ever have questions or want to separate fact from myth, all you have to do is ask your local Extension Agent. If they don’t know, we have a wonderful team of State Equine Specialists who are knowledgeable in multitudes of equine topics who can help answer your questions. In a world where everyone is an expert, remember there are real experts who unbiased and ready to help you and your horses succeed.
Brooklyne Wassel, Pike County Extension Coordinator