Forage Extension Program
Forage Extension Program

UK Horse Pasture Evaluation Program

UK Horse Pasture Evaluation Program

UK Horse Pasture Evaluation Program

Horses Shannon RunHistory

The UK Horse Pasture Evaluation Program began in 2005 as part of the Equine Initiative to develop stronger ties with Kentucky's equine industry. To date, the program has performed over 200 evaluations, representing over 40,000 farm acres in 21 counties across the commonwealth.


Our objectives include:

  1. Grazing horsesProviding detailed pasture management recommendations to horse farm owners and managers,
  2. Improving pastureland by increasing forage quality and quantity,
  3. Reducing the need for stored feeds such as hay and grain, and
  4. Assessing the potential risk of fescue toxicity for pregnant broodmares on pasture.

Soil Mapping

Lexington is the Horse Capital of the World for a reason; rich, fertile soils lay under the iconic horse pastures. Limestone layers enrich the soil in phosphorus and calcium needed for growing foals into athletes. But soils are diverse, and understanding them is key to utilizing land effectively and managing it without damage. Soil mapping helps managers with farm layout and design as well as targeted practices to improve pasture stand diversity.

Soils MapSpecies Composition

Managing pastures begins with understanding what is there to manage. Determining species composition informs managers of the grasses, legumes, weeds and bare areas within a pasture. These components are important in making seeding, grazing and weed control decisions. Generally, we see 4 major forage species: Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue, orchardgrass and white clover.

Tall Fescue Sampling

Tall fescue is a cool season, bunch type grass, naturalized to central Kentucky and found on most horse farms. However, it is often infected with a fungus, called an endophyte, that can be toxic to brood mares. Testing for the presense of this endophyte and the toxin associated with it (ergovaline) helps managers decide how best to protect mares and foals.

Tall fescue Students

The UK Horse Pasture Evaluation Program not only provides valuable information to horse farm managers, but also serves to educate students through internships, senior research projects and summer employment. Each summer, 4-6 undergraduates are hired to work in this program. Each student leaves with a better understanding of research, extension, and the horse industry in KY.


The UK Horse Pasture Evaluation Program is part of the Forage Extension Program at UK. While extension work is state supported and therefore free to the public, the time, labor, and resources put into this program are not. Grants cover nearly two thirds of the operating costs, with the remaining covered by the participating farms. Pricing is based on the size of the pasture and the sampling performed. Contact us for a quote.


Pasture evaluations are conducted April - November, weather permitting, on any horse farm in Kentucky. Farms are serviced on a first-come, first-serve basis.

An initial visit will be scheduled to discuss the needs and layout of the farm. The evaluation will be done soon after and may take over a week, depending on the size of the farm. After all the data and lab results are compiled, a final visit with the state forage specialist will be conducted to walk farm managers through the entire report and provide time for one-on-one discussion.

Follow up visits are scheduled as needed. Enrollments are accepted year-round.


We understand that farms value privacy. Data collected on evaluations may be used for research or extension purposes, but all names, locations and identifying information is redacted.

Farm: Enroll your farm for a pasture evaluation here

Students: We are currently seeking summer students and interns to work. Any school or major accepted, deadline to apply is March 25, 2022.

Student Apply Here

Pasture Evaluation Report 20201

Contact Information

1100 Nicholasville Rd. N-222 Ag Science Bldg North Lexington, KY 40546-0091