By Jennifer Cook, Small Acreage Management Coordinator, NRCS/CSU Extension
A simple track system known as “paddock paradise” can be created on small acreage pastures to allow horses space for exercise while protecting your pasture grasses. Wild horses travel great distances along familiar tracks each day, and paddock paradise tries to mimic this using a track system. Paddock Paradise is a concept based on Jamie Jackson’s research and book, Paddock Paradise, A Guide to Natural Horse Boarding. The design can be as simple as running temporary fence along the perimeter fence of a pasture to create a narrow alleyway for animals to move within. The more narrow the alleyway, the more the horses will want to keep walking through the track system.
I first learned about paddock paradise from Kristen Galles, a small acreage owner in Golden. Having just moved from Minnesota, where 7 acres of pasture would be plenty for her 2 horses, she was disheartened to learn that her pasture could only support an estimated 17 days of grazing per year! Kristen wanted to keep her pasture grasses healthy and productive but also wanted her horses to stay in good physical and mental shape.
She first tested out her paddock paradise design using temporary polytape fencing and eventually installed permanent fencing when she determined that her design worked. She noticed that her horses’ body conditions improved after using the track system for a while, and her pastures improved because she wasn’t grazing them as often.
Here are a few strategies to making the track system work:
- Put hay stations strategically throughout the track, especially in winter when there’s nothing else to eat. The hay stations will encourage horses to keep moving toward the next food stop.
- Be sure water is available along the track
- The more narrow the track, the more animals will want to keep moving. Kristen’s track is about 6 feet wide to fit her ATV through.
- Pick up manure regularly in the track to reduce flies
- If possible, connect the track to the barn and corral area for easy access. Horses can walk the track 24/7!