Paddock Paradise/Track Systems

A track system is a way of keeping horses based on allowing the herd constant movement, (should they choose to take it), around a continuous looped track. This system was first proposed by Jamie Jackson in his book 'Paddock Paradise' published in 2006 by Star-Ridge Publishing.

Although the basic idea is deceptively simple, consisting of little more than creating a perimeter track using electric tape, I believe Paddock Paradise to be possibly one of the most revolutionary ideas in the management of horses for many hundreds (possibly thousands?) of years.

In order to justify that statement, let's take a look at some of the many advantages:

First of all, horses are creatures of movement, in the wild this movement is almost constant, with horses travelling as far as twenty to thirty miles per day!. This is not just aimless wandering but rather travelling from resource to resource, as and when the herd requires it. This is something undertaken by even the youngest foals, foals that are able to travel with the herd within a few hours of birth.

Horses are designed like this by nature.

It is this lifestyle of constant movement that keeps wild horses in the peak of physical fitness and it is movement and the ability to forage over a wide area that allows the horse to live in  nutritionally poor environments where they specialise in extracting energy from very low quality, fibre based food sources and it is the ability to move and travel and the consequent athletic ability that we humans find to be the most useful ability of the species.

The natural daily feeding pattern of the horse is not, as most humans believe, based around regular mealtimes but on trickle feeding and a constant, regular browsing and moving-on behaviour, that is the primary daily activity of the horse.

A Paddock Paradise or track-based system gives back to horses this natural ability to move. Fibre-rich food sources, such as hay, are placed at intervals around the track and the horses move from resource to resource, just as they would in the wild.

Constant movement gives back to the horse it's healthy physique, helps develop muscles, tendons, bones, healthy circulation and respiration. Ridden horses no longer need to be warmed up as they are constantly moving all day, every day.

Horses can interact naturally with other herd members with activities such as grazing, dozing, sleeping,  social and sexual behaviour.

If circumstances allow, horses can access trees for shade and shelter and herbs and other mixed species of plant that allow them to control their own body temperature, self-groom and also self-medicate.

Paddock Paradise was conceived  for barefoot horses and is especially useful for horses prone to laminitis or weight problems. It is simple to restrict the amount and availability of grass at all times, some users even eliminate grass altogether, especially in springtime. By  moving the fencing around the perimeter, it is possible to give a controlled amount of access to mature grass during the autumn. The period over which the grass is grazed can also be controlled so that poaching of the ground is eliminated and possible infestation by parasites minimised (without use of chemicals!).

Since the primary input into this system is hay it is nice to have a system that actually creates hay and thus saves you money! The centre of the paddock can also be used for equestrian activities – and fun!

The track system has a great many advantages for conservation, creating species rich traditional grassland, that is left alone for long periods. Imagine the effect if this system was adopted universally over traditional stable/paddock systems, thousands of acres of grassland could be returned to traditional long term pasture leys as a by-product of keeping horses.

These are just a few advantages of the paddock paradise system. So I repeat: