Advice on Minis Housed in Pastures that Contain Dense Woods

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Hi all!

I asked about this on FB as well, but thought I may get more detailed responses here. So here goes...

I finally walked most of the property at our new place yesterday. Wow, eye-opening! I wish I'd had my camera with me as there were a few really cool things. But also things that concern me. For instance, we planned on fencing the perimeter so have someone coming soon with a bobcat to clear 12' through the woods. This is for about 1200' linear that would be in dense woods. Not so dense I can't walk through, but certainly very large trees with tons of younger ones and even sapplings all around. There is also a natural rock wall that drops off about 3' in some areas to close to 6' in others with a flat grassy area below it. There's a wet weather creek as well. And then the standard fallen trees and large rocks, etc. Just a lot of obstacles imo. So, my question is: even though the horses will have about 1.5 acres in each pasture that is open and basically flat with some trees, they will also have in each pasture about 1.5 acres of this wooded area. What are the pros and cons of having dense trees in which the horses can roam? I've only had open pasture prior to this. Each pasture will also have a run-in that is 21 x 18'. Plus a barn for stalling purposes when necessary. Each pasture will have approx 6 horses in it. Essentially, I keep boys in one, girls in another, with geldings going either way as personalities allow.

So, do you worry about them tripping over the fallen trees or rocks? What about that rock wall? Will they figure it out or am I just asking for a broken leg? What about them poking out eyes on limbs? Will I have a ton of ticks on the horses? Any other harmful things I'm not even thinking of?

I've never had horses, as an adult, where I couldn't just look out and see them all with one glance. This will be very different for me? What happens when you call your horses at night and one doesn't show up? Do you go walking your woods with a flashlight???? That scares me. Also, what if one is injured in the woods and can't walk out on their own? How do I get back there with a trailer? I don't imagine I could.

I'm hoping to have this resolved in my mind so I can decide on what to have this guy clear for me for fencing purposes.

The only thing I could imagine is horses eating the trees and bark, so make sure they're nontoxic. My guy loves eating the tree that hangs down into the arena.
The property we live on was almost completely un-developed when we moved here. My horses even now have pastures that are not entirely open, add that to an abundance of rocks and many stumps and roots where we fell some of the trees and have not been able to remove them and my horses have had to learn to watch their step. I have not had even one injury in the 9 years they have lived with these obstructions. They will run, leap and play but have learned to be very sure footed and careful because of it. The worst mine have done is rub on some of the trees (pine and spruce) and get 'pitch' in their manes or on their bodies which is a royal pain in the behind to remove. Some trees are toxic but I have none here that are and my horses enjoy stripping the bark from poplar (aspen) and birch and have killed many of those trees so we then had to remove them so they didn't fall on horses or fences. Yes, ticks and other external parasites can be a problem (here at least) in bushier pastures but that seems to be a seasonal thing here and we treat with an ivermectin wormer in early spring when the problem is most prevalent (again, thats how it works in this part of the world, might be different there)and in the rare instance that an individual horse still shows symptoms of them we dust with a powder that is specific for ticks etc. I have only had to do the dust a couple of times on different horses tho.

I would be inclined to be a bit more concerned about the rock wall, at least until they have lived there long enough to really remember it in case they get running and forget.
I understand your concerns; like you, I've never had 'turnout' where any of the horses weren't visible at all times.

I'd be concerned about the rock 'dropoff'; might consider some sort of fencing along the top of it so they wouldn't be likely to run right off the edge in the dark??Honestly, I don't KNOW how much of a potential problem this might be; horses see better than we in the dark, I understand, but....????

Running into the 'stubs' on the trees *could* be a problem...I helped the vet years ago for someone else's horse who was being kept in a good sized pen (with a large 'shrubby' juniper-type tree in shelter, just that 'big bush') across the street from us in a small AZ town. They just came, threw feed, and left, always....but one day I noticed the horse NOT eating after they'd left, walked over, saw that he had a piece of a BRANCH protruding from his shoulder...he was in severe PAIN! I called the vet, who notified the owners, who authorized care but didn't bother to come back I helped the vet when he came....Some people.

You might take some trimmers out, nip off low sprounts/small branches?

Don't know about ticks; have never had a issue at ALL here in my dry high desert country...but I'd guess that yes, they could also be an issue in the kind of surroundings you describe. On the up side...the varied terrain and trees should be a good conditioning tool!

Best wishes,

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I have horses in wooded pastures a few times in my many, many years of owning horses, and had no major issues. The biggest danger - and I was at a boarding barn where a horse died from this - is make SURE there are no red maples or other poisonous trees like black walnut on the property. If you can't be sure, then I would find a tree expert and have them check for you. As Disneyhorse said, horse will eat the bark and they will also eat leaves and acorns.

The other thing you might consider is fly masks. We leave one on Toffee 24/7 in the summer with no problem. The other mares get them on and off each day. They protect the eyes from bugs and branches and blowing debris in a storm.

We have rocks in our wooded area, along with a downed branch-less tree and all the minis - including the foals - love to jump the log, run through the woods, and play on the rock pile. Second only to playing on the manure pile!!! We all know they can get hurt in places that seem absolutely safe, and you know I am a worry wart, and I can deal with this! The other really nice thing about trees is they provide shade and I often see the mares grazing in the sun and the foals lying or playing in the shade.

Did I mention that they WILL eat leaves??? Our less than 1 month filly taken this past weekend.

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My horses love it! All the bust butt rubbing trees are within their reach! All that natural shade and lots of places to play hide-go-seek. They will peal the bark of of any type of maple tree that we have here but the pastures were checked for poisonous trees and plants first.
Check around any stumps and logs to be certain there are no sinkholes or pockets where roots have rotted or critters have burrowed. You don't want a hoof to be caught.

In addition to poisonous trees, check for toxic shrubs and perennial plants, now and in the future. Get to know dangerous plants in your area, as seeds can always blow in or be unearthed. Ask your local extension agent for a guide to local toxic plants. ASPCA has a great list (way better than the puny Cornell list), but may not have all local plants.

If your part of Missouri experiences winter freezing, keep an eye on that seasonal stream for ice.

I like the idea of putting a fence of some sort above the rock wall -- it sounds very picturesque and would be a shame to remove so long as you can prevent any falls.

I'd put a driving trail through the woods to create your own marathon route.
We have approx. Forty acres of wooded land to use, but in almost thirty years of having horses here, we use what we clear for them, and that's it. I had a mini die from red maple poisoning about 7-8 years ago. Horrible ordeal, and that was in a relatively cleared out turnout. It's just my luck that I would be the one to have a horse with a tree limb embedded in it's head, so in my situation,I never felt comfortable just fencing the perimeter. Have you considered researching to see if there are farmers that lease goats for clearing out brush and saplings? They do a wonderful job and if I were in your shoes I would consider it, if only to thin out the underbrush.
I did have our fullsize horses in a dense piece of property..never had any problems.they made paths all through it.however..i recently purchased a mini mare with limited vision in her eye due to a twig sticking in as a foal.
Wow! You guys have given me lots of excellent ideas, thoughts and information! Again, the BEST PLACE EVER TO GO FOR INFO!!!

I like the idea of goats, contacting the local extension center (also put a call into my local horse vet as he lives out here too and may know what's likely). We walked the place in depth tonight. Will upload a couple of pics tomorrow. But we decided to fence off the rock wall. Just too dangerous in my mind. We saw deer and turkey and snakes while out there tonight and I had 5 large and 2 (that I found) seed ticks on me to show for my efforts!!! I HATE ticks!!!

We are close to an abandoned quarry, so the area is very rocky, so lots of rocks to contend with. Not sure I like that.
Here's some thoughts and what we did when we moved here. There was a nasty old fence around the permiter with a lot of overgrown trees and thorny brush we were about to clean out and refence it. Instead, due to the coyotes and stray dog problem, I insisted we leave it as is and go in about 6 feet further and clean that part up and put up our fence, giving us two fences actually to help keep those things out. I also appreciate the privacy factor so people can't be looking in at the horses back there.

We had a wooded area and there was nothing but problems stemming from it. I had lice and ticks and, horses sticky with sap, tail loss, and yes they were eating the bark and leaves too, not to mention the snakes living under the downed timber. We plowed that part out and cleared it. I actually lost my old pony Frosty back in there once as he was all tangled up in vines and couldn't get out and was probably stuck out there all day long. I really need to be able to see out there easily because I'm not one to go outside in all kinds of weather with a flashlight in the dark begging for my horses to come for a roll call. The drop off would scare me so I'd be fencing the horses away from that area too.

For a while I had to put up with temp shelters that of course they wouldn't get inside during bad weather so they were torn down and we built the main barn. It was such a time saver having everyone in one place to feed and farm management got a whole lot easier.

We were also putting goats on our other farm to help us "clear" the thin woods. Sounded good at the time but let's face it, they aren't a bulldozer. I can tell you that is yet another waste because they are not going to do this over night and its just more mouths to feed and more animals to worry about. We finally sold that farm last week.

Draw out your plans on paper and look it over good and hard. Walk around and take movies of all your areas and study them closely. It will help you out know what needs to be done and where to do it. Good luck in all your decisions.
Our mares run in the back of our place, about ten acres or so. Not dense woods anymore, they cleared it out pretty well. Lots of trees for shade and sun protection. They seem to like it back there a lot!
My horses cleared out all the brush in the woods, you don't need goats for that. Now they have paths all through the woods and everyone has their favorite shade/scratching tree. Get some guineas and/or chickens to free range out there, they'll put a hurtin' on the ticks for you.

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