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I have 40 acres of rugged mountain side and am preparing for eventually 8-10 horses. The ground is extremely rocky and uneven. I have cleared 2 acres for pasture and cut the stumps flush to the ground. I would like not to destroy the forest humus layer and plant meadowgrass overtop the flushcut stumps.

Can I do this, or are the stumps dangerous?

I have also heard I could simply fence in forested sections and keep my herd of Canadians there. I have no trees that are toxic and would love not to have to clear so much land I feel the added benefit to my horses would be a much larger roam area over 7-10 acres instead of 2-3 of pasture.

Best Regards,

-- R. B., Canada


If there's enough soil over the stumps for the grass to take hold and grow, I can't envision any problem with the stumps. My greater concern would be the use of the woodland for pasture. I'm reminded of a comment a friend of mine -- a consulting forester -- made when we saw a herd of cattle in a woodlot. "Cows," he observed, "make lousy foresters." The same can be said of horses, with the added caution that horses have a greater tendency than cows to chew the bark off and kill the trees. As a result, you could lose both the erosion control and the sawlog value of the trees.

If you lived in the U.S., I'd be recommending that you get in touch with your local agricultural extension office. Frankly, I don't know what the equivalent office would be in Canada. I assume that there are university agronomists and/or foresters available who can actually look at your property and advise you on how to best manage your woodland and avoid erosion problems. Without doing this, you are at risk of losing the value of both the land and the trees.

I'm sorry I can't be of more detailed help, but I hope this will steer you in the right direction.


Hi Bob,

Thank you for your speedy reply. As for the horses...

1. I have 40 acres of bush and am planning to fence 8-10 for the horses. So if they kill some trees it is a low-cost method of clearing land for me.

2. The only breed I am keeping are Canadians who are best known for their easy-keeping which means low pasture requirements and calm dispositions. They are not easily impressed and tend to keep their weight on whatever they are fed.

3. Erosion control is always a concern and I am planning to plant pasture grass in the forest admidst the trees.

My main concern was not so much for the forest as for the horses and if I understand you correctly you seem to be saying no problem for the horses but the forest could be 'damaged'.

Did I understand you?

Best Regards

-- R. B.


Yep, you understand me correctly. Horses have survived in forest lands for millenia.

Along with uncontrolled hoof growth and poisoning from toxic plants, one of the problems with woodland horses is the damage they can do to the environment by killing off grass, brush, trees, etc. That's one reason why the U.S. Bureau of Land Management spends so much time and money trying to reduce wild horse populations. With today's limited numbers of predators to rip horses apart (which usually happens while the horse is still alive), horse herds can convert formerly lush areas into barren wastelands in a short time. That's part of the reasoning behind my view that folks who want horses to "run wild and free" either don't know much about horses -- or hate them.

Even with grass planted among the trees, you'll want to watch for erosion on the slopes. Horses tend to play "follow the leader" and stick to routine trails. If one of those trails kills off the grass on a slope, all it may take is a heavy rain to put a miniature Grand Canyon in your backyard. Terracing of slopes and building strategically-located fences may help to minimize the damage. Try to rotate the herd to another fenced area before any spots of bare ground appear, and if you re-seed any spots keep in mind that some types of lawn seed are hard on a horse's digestion. Also remember: grass doesn't usually grow well in forested areas.

Thanks for getting back to me -- I hope this clarifies things.

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