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Mr. Smarty Plants - Grass for miniature horses

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Friday - October 31, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Grass for miniature horses
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

We are looking for buffalo grass or a grass that can be eaten by miniature horses. We have a small non-profit in south Austin and bring the minis home on weekends x2 a month. Our yard has been dirt when they got caught there too long in Dec/Jan 2006 (rains and ice storms). We want to sod part of the yard and keep the other part as a run area for when the minis come home.but allow them to munch the grass we lay after it has taken solid root under controlled situation. Advice? We figured we would need 3 pallets of sod to do this.

ANSWER:

First of all, please see our article, Native Lawns: Buffalograss , for information on establishing and maintaining a buffalograss native lawn. 

Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss) is an excellent choice for your lawn/horse pasture since it is "one of the most nutririous of the prairie grasses" for horses and cattle according to Texas A&M AgriLIFE Forages of Texas-North Central.  Here are several other grasses that make good forage for horses; but, except for the blue grama, they grow 2 to 3 feet high and couldn't really be considered turf grasses.  Nevertheless, they are attractive grasses and are nutritious.

Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama)

Bouteloua hirsuta (hairy grama)

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama)

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

Several sources (e.g., Safergrass.org) emphasize the nutritional benefits of using native grasses over introduced grasses. You do need to realize, however, that native grass pastures are more difficult to establish than pastures of the introduced forage grasses. Native grasses face competition from introduced nonnative grasses and need to be managed carefully to prevent overgrazing. Native Prairies Association of Texas, Kansas State University and the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation have information on planting and establishing native grasses.  Since your miniature horses will be there only part of the time, you shouldn't have any problems with overgrazing, however.

You speak of putting in sod, but if you wanted to try seeding the area, Native American Seed in Junction is an excellent source for native grass seeds. In particular, they have a seed mix of buffalograss and blue grama that they call their Native Sun Turfgrass.  They also have information on planting native grasses. Ideal planting time is late spring to early summer, however, and you may want to get started before then by installing sod or plugs.

A cautionary note—although most native grasses are desirable to feed your horses, there are some grasses and other plants, both native and non-native, that you should avoid for your area. The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation has compiled a list of Poisonous Plant Considerations.


Bouteloua dactyloides

Bouteloua gracilis

Bouteloua hirsuta

Bouteloua curtipendula

Schizachyrium scoparium

 

 

 

 

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