Creating a Sacrifice Area for Horses

A sacrifice area is a small enclosure, such as a corral, run, pen, turnout, or winter paddock, meant to be your horse's outdoor living quarters. It is called a sacrifice area because you are giving up the use of that small portion of land as a grassy area to benefit the rest of your pasture. Many owners confine their horses to sacrifice areas during the winter and early spring when pasture plants are dormant and/or soils are wet. During summer months sacrifice areas prevent pastures from becoming overgrazed.

One option is to set up one sacrifice area per horse like a run off each stall. This chore-efficient arrangement gives the horse free access to a clean, dry stall.

Begin by locating an appropriate site for your sacrifice area that is:

  • On higher ground;
  • Away from creeks, wetlands, other water bodies, and surface water flows;
  • Surrounded by a grassy or vegetated buffer for runoff biofiltration; and
  • Convenient for you to care for your horse and maintain the area.

A sacrifice area can vary in size from that of a generous box stall (e.g., 16-by-16 feet) to that of a long, narrow enclosure where the horse could move around for exercise. If you want your horse to be able to run or play in his paddock, you will need to design an enclosure that's about 20 or 30 feet wide by 100 feet in length. The amount of land you have available, the number of horses, their ages, temperaments, and the amount of regular exercise they receive all play an important role in determining the size you choose to make your sacrifice area(s).

Choose the very safest fencing you can for your sacrifice area. Whatever type you choose, you might want to reinforce it with some type of electric tape or hot fencing, which provides a good "psychological barrier." Horses are hard on fences and will test most types, but they tend to respect electric fencing.

Be sure that corners are safe and that there are no protruding objects that could hurt a horse, such as bolt ends, nails, boards, or the tops of metal t-posts. Watch out for roof edges and bottoms of metal buildings. There should be no wires or cords hanging in the area and no junk, garbage, or machinery.

Keep in mind that gates must be adequately sized for the types of truck deliveries you expect (such as gravel, hog fuel, hay, etc.) and latches easy to open. These will help make chore time easier.

Although your horses can move around in their sacrifice areas, they still need regular exercise. Plan for and maintain a regular exercise program for your horse.

Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.