Sacrifice lots allow pastures time to recover. Photo courtesy UMN Rotational Grazing Demonstration Farm.

Pastures, paddocks and other grazing areas often need a rest after heavy rains, long drought or overgrazing. Farm managers may need to keep horses out of those pastures during and after renovation, reseeding, fertilization or weed eradication. A sacrifice lot provides a place for horses to stretch, exercise and get some fun while the pastures and paddocks recover.

Smaller properties especially need a sacrifice lot in order to protect the sustainability of their smaller turnout space. Even on larger farms and facilities, a dry lot makes life much easier during periods of heavy rain or snowmelt.

Surface sacrifice lots with layers of gravel, sand or wood chips. These materials absorb storm water and decrease mud during high rainfall. They minimize dust during dry periods. Avoid bare soil in areas with higher clay content. A vegetated lot can withstand moderate use.

Make the lot size a minimum of 600 square feet per horse (about 25’x 25’ square) with a sturdy fence. Size and fence dry lot corrals for individual horses. Maintaining more than an acre is a chore. The area may become unmanageable, weedy and eventually muddy.

Locate the lot away from and not directly uphill from water bodies or wetlands. Place the lot in a convenient, well-drained and gently sloping area. Drain storm runoff into an infiltration swale or basin on the low side of the lot. Put it in a sunny area, preferably facing south or west, to help keep it dry. Include nearby tree cover or a run-in shed for shade and shelter.

Inspect dry lots frequently for broken fences or other safety hazards. Pick up and remove manure on a regular basis. Use a sacrifice lot for temporary or infrequent necessities rather than an everyday holding pen.

For more information about sacrifice or dry lots in your area, see your local Extension Office here or here.