Q: Is it recommended to keep horses on pasture once the ground has frozen and there is snow cover?
A: We do not recommend keeping horses on pasture over winter. There is minimal nutritional value in the dormant/dead grass and legumes. Hoof traffic and continuous grazing can cause considerable damage, which can results in weak plants or bare spots in the pasture the following spring and summer. Also, some poisonous plant skeletons, like white snakeroot, can remain above the snowline, tempting horses to ingest them. During winter months, keep horses in a safe area where they are fed hay, have water and shelter. As a guideline, turn horses back into the pasture the following spring after the pasture dries out and grasses and forages are between 6 - 8" tall.
By Krishona Martinson, PhD, University of Minnesota