Has your horse started chewing wood or eating sycamore seedlings? Are they underperforming or just behaving a little odd?

Sometimes horses eat or do unusual things when they have developed a vitamin or mineral deficiency.

By analysing your soil, you can assess the soil’s nutrient supply in order to establish what is available for the grass to utilise and supply all the essential nutritional requirements for your horse.

We look at the soil’s pH and its Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) – the ability of soil to store positively charged nutrients, known as Cations. The interaction between the soil type, total CEC, the organic matter and the individual Cations determines where and how the soil isn’t working productively.

Once we know all that, we can rectify what your horse needs.

So, let’s take a look at the stuff we analyse in more detail.

What are trace elements?
Trace elements occur naturally in soils at concentrations of less than 100 mg kg−1. Some of these are essential micronutrients for plants, and therefore animals. They include zinc, copper, manganese, boron and sodium.

Soil pH
The soil pH describes how acid or alkaline your soil is. A pH of 6.5-7.0 is neutral, an acid soil has a pH value below 6.5 and soil above 7.0 is alkaline. It is important to know whether the soil is acid or alkaline, as this directly affects nutrient availability for the grass. Crucially, the pH determines the grass species that the environment can productively sustain happy horses
Different plants thrive in different soils – you can read more about that on our Companion Species page.

What is organic matter?
Soils are composed of a mixture of sand, silt, clay (the mineral content of the soil that we can’t alter, but has a direct impact on productivity) and organic matter – the engine for healthy grass. Soil organic matter is any material produced originally by living organisms (plant or animal), such as dead plant parts and animal droppings deposited on the soil surface, roots that have died and decomposed and carbohydrates from living roots called exudates. Over time, worms convert the organic matter into valuable humus for the sward to utilise.

The Cation Exchange Capacity
Cation exchange capacity is a measure of the soil’s ability to hold positively charged ions, which influences soil structure, nutrient availability and how soil reacts to fertilisers. The positively charged ions are the major nutrient suppliers to the grass: Calcium, Magnesium, Potash. If any of these are unavailable for the grass to utilise, then you won’t have a happy horse! In fact, it is liable to be ‘difficult to manage’ or certainly underperforming.

In summary:
The interaction between your soil type; the total CEC; the organic matter; and the individual Cations determines where and how the soil isn’t working productively to generate nutritious grass.

Once you have analysed your soil, you can then determine a fertiliser strategy to benefit your horse and its environment. That certainly doesn’t mean spreading nitrogen!

You can also assess the grass species in the sward and adjust to match the soil type to create a sustainable environment that complements the objectives for your horse.

Take a look at how we deliver soil analysis findings to you here.