We didn’t buy this Serpentine property with horses in mind. We wanted 5 acres for some space and peace and quiet. It was September when we first saw the house and the land was green and lush. We had never had our own property before…..how hard could it be?
The following winter we had plenty of feed come up (well a lot of weeds I should say) so we let a friend put two horses on the paddocks. Later that year it became apparent that all the feed was gone and it was turning into a dust bowl for summer. The horses left and my mission to improve the property began.
I started with getting a bore licence to water more land and began laying more reticulation. I gathered kykuyu runners and lovingly planted them in the front paddock. Goodness, that’s time consuming, but it worked and we soon had some grass.
I also tried to plant kykuyu seed in the back paddock without retic in September. I tenderly scratched up the soil, spread seed and soil amendments. It was a dry end to the year, no rain, no growth.
We soon ended up with our own horses and it was time for a real plan. After much experimentation dividing up paddocks with electric tape and droppers, I got a fencing contractor to build my version of a paddock paradise. The back paddock was divided into 4, with a lane-way all the way around. The horses can happily hoon and eat hay while the grass grows. This photo was taken while paddocks were still being established, the kykuyu paddocks are green year round now.
The red lines indicate the lane-way system, the blue arrows are the gates. The green lines are the paddock fences.
I reticulated and planted kykuyu seed in two paddocks and left the other two for winter seed. I love putting retic pipe down. Plan, measure, cut, glue. So satisfying. I hired someone to dig my trenches and paid the kids to fill them back in. I just did the fun part!! I remember it being 40 C most days so it wasn’t all fun, but I got the job done.
I have spent countless hours and dollars trying to improve the soil. It is gutless sand and has a low ph. I have added wetter agent, fertilisers, humus, Nutrisoil, you name it. We even added lime to increase the ph. That was an experience in itself. Guess what, lime doesn’t fall through a spreader very well, so my husband and I took turns standing on the trailer (while the other drove) throwing it out with a manure fork. Beats having a gym membership.
Then there are weeds. Capeweed, sorrel, bur medic, melons, doc, cotton bush. I’m pretty much winning the weed battle, except for the sorrel, but I’m hoping when the ph gets a bit higher the sorrel might get out competed. Basically I’ve given up on it, as the hand pulling and the poisoning have hardly made a dent in it.
I’ve added a gravel pad around the water trough for their hooves. I’d add a dam and a few hills if I could! It is still a work in progress. I’m experimenting with planting some native seed at the moment.
For the most part I’m pretty happy with what I’ve got now. The horses live in the lane-way system and graze a paddock when the feed is sufficient. When it isn’t, they have a meadow roll of hay 24/7 in a slow release hay net.
Horses eating out of their Liberty Supplies Hay Ring with Slow Release Hay Net. This can be easily moved to different parts of the lane system.
I used to pick up all the manure in the lane-way in the winter but last year decided it was far too time consuming so gave up on that idea. Instead, I kick it or use a stick rake on the tractor to spread it once a month.
Concerned my lack of manure pick up might lead to a higher worm burden I have just had all the horses manure tested for worm eggs (I do this every 4 months). All horses were extremely low, proving my system is working.
Horse care is easy here. No rugging, no stabling, minimal manure pick up, a round bale available 24/7 and a hard feed 4 times a week (no particular schedule). I can sleep in or go out in the evening and have no schedule I have to adhere to. The horses live as a herd and entertain and groom each other.
On my 5 acres of gutless sand, this system is working well to keep the horses and the land happy and healthy.