Reading Jaime Jackson’s book, Paddock Paradise inspired me to implement a new approach to keeping my horses that encourages more movement and in the spring/summer, will enable me to control grazing so laminitic events are kept under control.
I constructed an inner electric fence around the perimeter of my 10 acre paddock to form a track that is wide where the horses are fed and narrows where I want them to keep moving such as on the steeper slopes.
I was able to fence off one dam so they have to travel further to get water and I have six different areas to put out hay depending on the weather. On frosty and wet nights I put hay under the wattle trees so the horses have shelter and on sunny days they are fed in several different areas in the open where they can soak up the warmth. Eventually when my barn is extended there will be an undercover area I can feed hay that will have a gravel base.
I also had a truckload of gravel spread along a fence line where they walk and like to stand, and over time, I will gravel more areas so when we have wet weather, they can at least be on firm footing.
So far, the horses have adpated well and definately move around more, running up the big hill through the bush for extra exercise.
Interestingly, they are mostly moving in an anti clockwise direction, whereas in his book Jaime observed the horses moved in a mostly closkwise direction. I wonder if that’s because we’re in different hemispheres or is it related to the terrain?
I can see this way of keeping horses will be very beneficial to the land by restricting hoof damage to the track area and in the grass growing months, it will really benefit the horses to be restricted from too much sugary grass. I imagine they will be able to graze some of the time, like in the mornings when the grass has less sugar, so I will need to feed hay most of the year round.
But if that’s what it takes to have healthy, strong hooves with no seperation, no abcesses and no mud fever, then the benefits far outweight the extra costs (initially in setting up the track) and extra time feeding.
Overall, I predict I will save many hours from not treating mud fever or damaged hooves….. and my horses will be sound and ready to ride with better conditioned hooves and muscles.
Update one month later
From my initial set up on 10 acres of hillside, I discovered the horses were traveling around the track well, especially when I increased the herd size from 4 to 6. Then it rained a bit and the track got slippery and muddy in sections so they would just go the minimum distance between food and water.
I stopped spreading the hay around the track as I wanted to feed it in the shelter of the trees or in the hay boxes so they weren’t able to waste so much. They still had to travel from the top of the hill to the bottom to get water and I tried to encourage more movement by feeding them their bucket feed each morning in the area opposite where they liked to stand and eat hay.
But because they could see me from their hay area, they would just stand at the fence as if to say “we can see you but we can’t work out how to reach you”! They were well aware of how to get to the feeding area – just reluctant to slip and slide down the hill unless I led them!
Also, they were rushing down the slippery areas and this ploughed up the soil quite a bit so that could become a problem in the future.
This was very frustrating so in the end I took the fence down just so I could keep my time and energy at a reasonable level. I will have to put better footing down (more gravel) on those slippery sections so they feel safe traveling before the track is re-installed on this particular paddock.
Now that winter is over and its not nearly as wet as in previous years (unless we get huge amounts of spring rain), I will be setting up the track again in other paddocks to keep my fatter horses off the grass.
I’ve used this time to have some maintenance done on the external fences and to ensure all steel posts are capped and new electric wire will carry the current around so my internal track fences will work properly when they are most needed (when the grass grows and is tempting them to push on the fence).
So far, I’ve only had to use one white tape on tread in posts which are easier to move, to keep them on the track, but that could all change when there’s grass on the other side!
The mares and foals live in the centre of my track as they need more feed while the ‘fatties’ are confined to the 8m wide track which has been grazed for only 1 week when this photo was taken, and is a lot more eaten down now.
The horses all move together whether on the inside pasture or the track so generally more more and faster at times.
Placing gravel on high wear parts of the track can help with hoof conditioning and erosion/mud.
A track for two horses only needs to be about 3 metres wide – a good guide is have 1 metre per horse + an extra metre.