Countless horses reside in paddock-type boarding situations. But many horse owners are unaware of the incredible potential that lies within a paddock, even a small one, writes Narayan Khalsa.
Each and every paddock, if creatively utilized, holds unique and wonderful ways to enhance your current management systems and greatly improve the quality of your horse’s life.
Use these tips, which are rooted in Jaime Jackson’s landmark research on the Great Basin wild horses and his subsequent book Paddock Paradise, to give your enclosure a makeover that will make all the difference for your horses.
Horses are not, in any way, sedentary creatures; when left to their own devices, they may travel up to 20 miles a day. An unnatural, sedentary lifestyle can negatively impact their circulatory system, their hooves, and their emotional wellbeing. Fortunately, it’s possible to intentionally design paddocks that enable and encourage frequent movement.
Wild horses of the Great Basin do not wander aimlessly. They move on very distinct tracks that they create, and they walk in single file. It’s a natural pattern that they exhibit. Within the space you have for your paddock, create tracks that require your horses to move, as if on a course. Use fencing to design pathways that vary in width. Fenced tracks are also a supreme way to keep your horses out of founder traps like lush green grass pastures.
Another way to guarantee movement is to place feeding and water sources far from one another. This will force your horses to move from one side of the paddock to meet their needs, just as they would in a natural environment.
Though we might baby our beloved horses from time to time, it’s important to remember that they do best in a natural environment. After all, they evolved and adapted in a more rugged environment than you will ever be able to mimic. While your paddock does create a somewhat artificial setting, you can take measures to ensure that conditions mimic nature as closely as possible.
When horses are out in the wild, they encounter various types of terrain, which all have different functions for their physical wellbeing. Great paddocks contain some variety: sand, rock, dirt, water, gravel. The track you’ve built within the paddock should resemble the changes a horse would find in nature.
Each variation has its purpose: Put sand in a wide, sunny spot to encourage rolling and resting; pea gravel and rocks polish and strengthen barefoot hooves. Adding a water hole for them to occasionally get feet wet helps keep hooves hydrated and clean. The main priority is to stimulate your horse both physically and mentally with an assortment of ground types.
Just like people, horses benefit from being engaged in more ways than one. As you well know, meeting their basic physical needs is not enough. In addition to varying the terrain, add some elements that will keep horses challenged and stimulated.
It’s as easy as putting in a few log jumps, a small bridge, scratching posts or using hilly land. Get creative in creating obstacles and diversions that will add to the richness in the track. Alter it every so often so that you are continually challenging them to adapt to changing conditions and giving them new cognitive experiences.
While there is no limit to the DIY upgrades you can make to your paddock, there are some products that go a long way in improving your horse’s home. A Paddock Protector, for example, uses broadcasted frequencies to disinfect areas within a 500 foot distance; they kill off parasites in the environment including their water and feed, and also target infectious agents that are in the horse’s tissues and cardiovascular system.
A great feeding option for paddocks are slow feeder hay nets, which have several health benefits. There are many types on the market, but all give horses the ability to eat more slowly and at their own will. Horses’ digestive systems have evolved to require small amounts of forage all day long. Their stomachs are constantly producing hydrochloric acid (HCI) to meet this demand, and when not met, can create various health problems.
Slow feeder hay nets are a perfect way to create movement. Set up multiple stations around your paddock and watch your horses walk, run and play all day from station to station. These will also greatly reduce hay ground waste and the number of times you have to go throw them hay per day!
Don’t let all of these recommendations and options overwhelm you; a paddock makeover doesn’t have to happen overnight. You can take on one small project at a time, which will eventually result in an ideal environment for your horses.
Be creative and think outside of the traditional paddock box. Refer to Jaime Jackson’s book Paddock Paradise for an in-depth understanding of the “why’s and how’s” of designing a natural boarding system.
Narayan Khalsa is a co-founder of Effective Pet Wellness, a company specializing in horse wellness and clearing infectious disease is equines, cats, and dogs.
Effective Pet Wellness provides 100% guaranteed herbal formulas that are designed to eliminate all known infections, including strongyles Lyme Disease, and even EPM.
Narayan also has a successful hoof care practice in Colorado, whose methodology is based upon the Great Basin wild horse model taught within the AANHCP.