I thought I would share a bit more about the Paddock Paradise track system idea. I’ve been hearing a lot of feedback from people, some good and some not, so thought a bit of clarification was due!
The track system idea came about from people watching the wild horses of North America. They tend to travel in small herds and follow paths they make in the large open areas where they live. They move all day long foraging and walking to water. Sometimes they can travel up to 20 miles in a day. While I’ve been doing research about the track systems I came across the wild herds in Europe as well. They tend to live in marshy, wet areas and have access to lots of green grass and forage so their living situation is vastly different than that of the American wild horse. This can cause some confusion and create arguments between people about the validity of the horse track.
I have read lots of information for the track system and lots of information against the track system, however I could see the benefits for, so decided to go for it!
Horses are pattern creatures so having a track system would definitely honor that. Horses need movement to digest their food well and keep them healthy and happy. Again the track system fills that need. Horses love to forage and search for nibbly bits. The track system, when implemented correctly, also fills that need! Horses love to run and play a little bit here and there and my track system certainly makes that possible! Horses do best in a herd situation and my track system honors that.
Lots of the negative I’ve heard from people really had to do with their mistakes when setting up their track. Making it too narrow or too wide, not offering enrichment for the horses on the track. Making the corners too sharp and squared off. Not putting the food far enough away from the water. I’ve heard of horses being big of bullies on the track system and wonder exactly what their track looked like. When I had the little bully mare, Chantelle, here she LOVED chasing and picking on Zorro as often as she could. With all the areas in my track, the jogs and the size of it, he was always able to get away from her. I put food out in several different spots of the track which allowed him to eat all the time without Chantelle being able to hog all the food.People also complained that the track systems aren’t pretty. In my opinion putting pretty ahead of my ponies well-being is a silly.
Many people complain about their horses getting into the middle of the track and eating grass. I guess I’ve been lucky on that front. I have a fairly small electric fencer and only one strand of fence but so far they haven’t pushed that boundary. I’m not saying they won’t, but I cross my fingers that it doesn’t turn into a problem. I guess if I had that problem I would figure out a different fence for the inside of the track.
I had my pasture grass tested last week. I gathered the grass at 7am when it was still cool- after a night that didn’t get too cold- and found out it’s too high in sugars for Bonnie to ever be out there. (The NSC is 14.3% and the ESC is 11.5%. The NSC should be below 12% and the ESC should be below 10%) After testing it I’m worried about any of my minis being out there for very long! I’m going to test it again this week and send in an afternoon sample. It’s supposed to get really hot this week with warmer nights and I thought it would be interesting to see how our drought grass handles that. Do the sugars go down or get higher during the day? I’ve always thought they get higher but I want proof! Anyway, I haven’t been turning anyone out in the pasture. Though today Sky, Captain and Zorro escaped the track through a gate that didn’t get latched and spent an hour cavorting around our pasture. Sigh. I knew I wouldn’t be able to catch them so left them to it and just crossed my fingers that everyone will be alright!
The amount of movement that my ponies are getting is amazing. They had this same area when it was one big dry lot and they hardly moved at all. They would have their times of day when they played chase and galloped all over the place, but the walking and constant foraging that goes on now is more consistent.
I am thrilled with how their feet are looking and the changes I’m seeing! Sky’s has gone from TALL contracted heels to a nicer angle with a wider heel. She still has a way to go to having healthy feet, but they have never looked so good! Bonnie’s feet are changing too even though she has to wear boots all the time. When out she will gallop around, bucking and rearing! She loves to run through the manure pile and play chase with Zorro. She is now out on the track for several hours, muzzled, and seems to enjoy herself pretending to forage. She hasn’t figured out the muzzle so there are times of frustration. She follows me around begging me to push hay and tall grass through the muzzle hole and of course I do it for her! She can be on the other side of the track and if I call, she will book it around to me so I can feed her. So far when I enter her pen to put her muzzle on she will shove her nose in all by herself to get to the cookies. It hasn’t been a struggle that way. I do hate the fact that she has to wear it at all. It’s painful watching her try and try to snack with it on.
So after a few weeks living with the track system I have to say it’s a total success for my ponies! It is a bit more work for me, but I don’t mind. Seeing the positive changes that have occurred with each one of my guys is worth all the extra work!
I wanted to share a couple of link here. These are articles I read before implementing my track. I also read Jamie Jackson’s book, Paddock Paradise many years ago and refer back to it often!
Dutch Hollow Acres – The following page is dedicated to our experiment using the Paddock Paradise Track System made popular by Jamie Jackson.
Paddock Paradise – Information about the paddock paradise.
This video is long but worth it! I have serious track envy for this one!