My Paddock Paradise
If you’re into natural horse care, chances are you’ve heard of Jaime Jackson’s idea for keeping domestic horses naturally known as a ‘Paddock Paradise’. This was a completely foreign concept to me a few years ago, but the more I’ve learned about barefoot and keeping horses naturally, the more I’ve been intrigued by this idea.
I was in need of a way to limit grass and increase movement for my horses who despite being on a balanced diet, still had stretched white lines likely due to too much sugar from grass. So I finally bought Jaime’s book and worked to build my own paddock paradise. I introduced my horses to the track just over a month ago, and I must say, so far, I love it!
In a nutshell, a Paddock Paradise is a narrow track that is usually built around the perimeter of a pasture. It limits grass intake, while promoting movement within the horse herd. Movement is not only beneficial for the body, but the barefoot hoof as well. The great thing about it is you don’t need a lot of land to make the system work for you. Some people build theirs on as little as one acre of land. Mine is built around a pasture that is about five acres.
The ideal Paddock Paradise has some varied terrain, a pond or stream, and small areas for horses to hang out (Jaime calls these ‘camping areas’). My paddock paradise is on fairly flat land and was grassy to start with–but I’m improvising. I tilled up the grass on most of the track, and I’m adding some gravel for my ‘varied terrain’. I do have an area with quite a few trees for shade as well.
To build my track, I used electric tape fence with plastic posts. I also installed a solar charger, like this one. In all, I probably spent about $350-$400. I’m still working on adding gravel, but my husband found a concrete company in the area who will give crushed cement away for free if we haul it (luckily, he has a dump truck!).
Since the grass is limited in the Paddock Paradise, I put out grass hay at least twice a day for my horses. I put some of the hay in slow feeders (I use Hay Pillows) and throw some of it loose on the ground. I spread the hay throughout the track to encourage movement.
I let my horses into the center pasture area for about 2-3 hours each morning when the sugar is lowest in the grass. You could also use this middle area to cut your own hay if you wanted. During this time, I pick up all the manure on the track to help with parasite management. If I do this every day, it doesn’t take too long at all.
I currently have three horses and it’s important to keep the horses together on the track since it’s the dynamics of the herd that promote movement along the track. I was a little worried that Lee Lee and Hershey might ‘bully’ Kady, my oldest horse, or even run over her on the track, but this has not been a problem. In fact, I’ve noticed that the old mare can keep up with the other two pretty well when she wants too! Occasionally, I’ll see the three of them running along the track. It’s a lot of fun to watch.
If you’re interested in building your own Paddock Paradise, I highly recommend Jaime’s book of the same name. Here are a few other websites with information as well: