I thought I would do an update of my tiny track and share how it’s working this winter.

I still love it. The ponies are moving around all the time. Right now they are not using the entire track because one side of it is a big, deep snow drift. Once in a while they will try to come down that side and I cringe the whole time they are floundering through it. It wasn’t so bad when the drift was soft but now it’s hard as a rock!

I feed at the opposite side of the track from the water so they have to walk a bit to get a drink. They all look very healthy and I have to fill the trough every 4-5 days which is about how often I filled it this summer so they are drinking enough. I have loose salt and magnesium in the shed so they have access to that at all times. Because it’s so cold and windy the chickens spend most of their days in the horse shed and then go back into their coop at night. Then the ponies use the shed at night… they are usually covered with sawdust in the mornings so I know they are laying down in there. They also lounge around in front of the shed when the sun is shining.

I put wind breaks around the track so they would have something to back up to when the wind really gets to blowing. If it’s 4 degrees out and the wind comes up to about 30 mph then it quickly drops to minus 10, 15 or even 20 degrees. They have two run in shed options but always choose to stand out in it. This morning the wind was blowing so much snow around that I couldn’t see 5 feet in front of me and I found them backed up to the hay stack in the far shelter. They typically don’t like that one when the wind is blowing because the roof is made up of tarps and they flap around a bit. But today they made an exception!!

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This is how they looked after I brought them over to the grain area so they could have their supplements. Even standing under the shelter backed up to the hay they were quite frosty!

It’s amazing to me how the morning can be so windy, freezing and snowy and then the afternoon is bright blue skies and beautiful! (The wind is blowing a bit so it is FREEZING out there!)

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This was in the afternoon! From the above photos to this!

All three of the ponies will get a bee in their bonnets and take off racing around and around the track. I love it when they do this! Bonnie and Zorro play with each other, chasing and bucking and rearing up to play bite. Sky watches them a bit annoyed but will run around the track on her quite a bit. I love watching them exercise in this way!

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Here is a little video of my track! There isn’t any music, just the sound of my feet in the snow and the wind, for those of you that read this while at work 😉

 

Today was the day to bathe and trim and clip some ponies around here! I love having nice, neat, clean ponies. Then I can stand back and admire them. There is just so much to admire!

And of course here are some before and after photos!

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First up is Sky! The before photo is from this spring. I thought she was fat then… and yet she looks fatter now! I do love how her topline is rounding out with all the driving we are doing. I can not believe she can be so round with all the exercise she is getting. I feed all the ponies 2 flakes of hay in each of the 4 hay nets plus 2 flakes of loose hay spread out on the track. That’s it in a 24 hour period! And they always have hay left over in the nets. Sometimes they have loose hay left over as well. So they don’t eat everything in site. Sky gets 2 Tablespoons of Crypto Aero, 1/4 cup of timothy hay pellets topped with 1 teaspoon of Thyro-L and California Trace. I just recently bought some Mojo to address her soreness. I have been thinking that maybe she is getting arthritis. So I’ll slowly add that in. I won’t feed her California Trace at the same time I’m feeding the Mojo because I don’t want to double up on things. We drive 4-5 times a week between 3 and 4 miles a drive. Sometimes we take Zorro and sometimes we go alone! We have only been able to fit in the one hike so far. Life got so crazy and both my truck and my Tahoe broke down so I didn’t have a tow vehicle to get the to the mountains. But the Tahoe is fixed so maybe next week we’ll go hiking! I did have her blood drawn when I had Bonnie’s done and everything came back totally normal. I don’t understand why she won’t lose weight.

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Next up is Bonnie! If you look closely at the summer photo you can just see her ribs. She is completely losing her topline. No hiking, no muscles! She is getting a bit of a belly and I wish I could give her more protein but I have to be so careful because she doesn’t utilize protein very well. She is bright eyed and loves being out on the track all the time with the rest of the ponies. She walks, trots and canters around all the time, snacking on the little things she comes across. So far so good! I keep my fingers crossed all the time. She is getting the same hay as above and I just lowered her back down to 2 Tablespoons of Crypto Aero, 1/4 cup of timothy pellets, 1 teaspoon of Thyro-L, and 1/2 a scoop of California Trace mineral. The only exercise she gets is life on the track. I don’t want to cause any mechanical founder by taking her out on the road.

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Now onto Zorro! Boy does he looks good!!! I wish every single one of you could come here and see him in person. He really is a stunning boy. It’s very hard to get him to be expressive in these photo shoots as nothing startles him or causes him any surprise at all! He stands there sighing and so bored no matter what I throw at him, plastic bags, umbrellas, buckets of grain, the cat, Angus…

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He just thinks it’s all so NORMAL and BORING. I got the expression in the above collage by showing him a peppermint with the wrapper half ripped so he could smell it. Then he got to spend some time licking it….

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He loved it!!

Zorro is such a wonderful boy. I keep saying that but it can’t be said enough. When I go outside I can call his name from anywhere and he will come running to me. If I go out to catch Sky for a drive and don’t take him he tries to body block me from getting to her. He stands at the gate with his head resting on the rails just watching us get ready. If I do pick him he is so so happy! He loves going out no matter what it is we are doing. Sky does kicks his butt when driving because she loves to trot and trot. He does his best to keep up but is very relieved when we get to walk a little bit. He is still a baby. He’ll grow into himself! He gets the hay listed above and 2 Tablespoons of Crypto Aero, 1/4 cup of timothy hay pellets and 1/2 scoop of California Trace.

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Last but not least is Captain Planet! The track life has made such a difference in him! WOW!! Also roaching his mane was a really good idea. He is heavy but he is built to carry it. He has signs of being IR or at least metabolically challenged so I treat him as such. He gets the same hay as above and 2 Tablespoons of Crypto Aero, 1/4 cup of timothy pellets and 1 scoop of Remission. He is a pet and a companion and does that job perfectly! He and Bonnie will pick on each other a bit. It’s actually funny to watch them. He knows all the buttons to push to make her chase him! But Bonnie doesn’t put much effort into being mean so it’s over almost as soon as it starts.

I just to love my track and so do the ponies!

 

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.

Sky’s toes are growing a bit and her heels are coming down. As you can see I haven’t trimmed her in a while! Her heels are opening up as well. She has been battling thrush because her heels were so contracted and tight. Bacteria just settled in there and it couldn’t dry out. Now she is feeling so much better!
I have been working on getting Bonnie’s heels down to alleviate the pain she was experiencing from the laminitis. I needed to get her angles better so she could move around. The pigmentation you can see in her toe area is her P3, coffin bone, pushing on her thin soles. I think the after photo is interesting regarding the P3… Has her foot changed shape internally? When I can’t see the pigmentation clearly any longer will that mean her soles have thickened up? So many questions!

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!

Track Systems- Are They Actually Worth It?

Jamie Jackson NHC Services

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!

I have been loving my tiny horse track and so have my ponies! The changes I have witnessed in three of my mini’s hooves is amazing. And in just 3 short weeks!

They all move more. I look out and they are always on the move. They don’t run around much, but they walk all the time. The trick to this is putting your feed station far away from the water. I also have a forage station that is far away from the feed station and the water station. They seem to have a different place to laze around every couple of days. I love watching them lay around as a little herd.

Bonnie goes out on the track with a muzzle on in the mornings. She likes wandering around the track pretending to forage because she hasn’t figured out the muzzle yet. She does love it when I push hay and the tall grass through the hole in the  muzzle for her and will follow me around begging. She spends time scratching on the scratch post and just walking and walking. Sometimes I let her walk around without her boots on and other times I leave her boots on!

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We’ll take a little photo tour of the track… then I’ll share a video!

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This is the beginning of the track. The gate into it is just beside the water trough. To create a water station I allow the water trough to overflow by leaving my hose on a very slow trickle. This makes the ponies have to step into the water to get a drink. They also have to walk through the water to go out to pasture in the morning. I gave them a shade cloth so they are always able to get out of  the sun.

 

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This is the south side of the track. I consider this the front part of the track. This part is 10 feet wide and goes up to the manure pile and opens up into the area that houses the old street sweeper that is a scratching post.

 

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Here is the open lounging and scratching area. They have access to the manure pile and sometimes they lay in it for a nap and they often climb it and dig in it!

 

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The feed station is on the east side of the track. The water station is on the west side. So in order to drink they have to walk around at least half of the track! I have four Hay Chix hay nets out tied to the T-posts so they can’t roll them into the middle, under the electric fence. I do have T-post toppers, I just need time to put them on!

 

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This is also on the east side of the track and connects the feed station to the forage station. This part is 8 feet wide to encourage the horses to move through here and not hang out. Narrower parts of the track encourage movement!

 

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This is the north east corner of the track. I bring the hay in through the little homemade gate there to right. (I built that gate all by myself! You can totally tell! LOL) This is a large corner and sometimes they lay around here and sleep. To the left there is the beginning of the Forage station.

 

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The forage stations are rocks piled up. Sometimes I put hay under the rocks and then I sprinkle timothy hay pellets among the rocks. I also put hay, spread out, under the log. They move the rocks and the log around with their noses. I love watching them make a beeline for the forage area!

 

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This is the north west side of the track. It was one of my little dry lot areas when the grass started to over take the dry lot. I felt it was too small because Sky would just stand around and eat the hay net all day. Now she walks around and eats all day! But the amount of movement the track has encouraged is amazing!

 

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This little section connects the north west side of the track to the south west side, where the shed and water station are. It’s a little jog around Bonnie’s dry lot area. The ponies hang out in this corner often and sleep next to Bonnie’s area.

 

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This is on the south side of Bonnie’s dry lot and connects back to the beginning of the track! Two ponies can fit in one side of the shed and the other side is for Bonnie. I provide the shade cloth for anyone that can’t get into the shed.

 

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My three wonderful ponies!

And the video –

I have shared this track on Facebook and the back lash was surprising! I have found that people feel the T-posts are very dangerous. I hear that. We rent and most everything has to be temporary. We will have to reseed the dry lot when we move. So putting in wood posts for the track was not an option. We also have high winds and deep snow in the winter so putting in a permanent post and rail fence, or even using the corral panels as the interior of the track is not an option as the snow would get caught by the rails and make huge drifts. I have to put the corral panels up when winter comes or the snow will build up on either side in drifts as high as 6-8 feet tall.

There are many things to consider when putting together a track. I’ve had quite a few years to think about this and design it! I’ve very happy with it and how it turned out. My ponies are happier and healthier this year than last year! I am most excited about the changes in their hooves. Sky’s heels have widened and her frogs are healthier than ever! The same for Captain Planet and Zorro. I can’t wait for Bonnie to be able to be out there 24/7 without her boots. I think it will make a big difference for her feet as well.