|Paddock Paradise and Natural Lifestyle|
|An essential ingredient to good hoof care|
|Natural hoof care is holistic. Because horses are herd animals whose entire physiology is set up for almost constant movement, it is difficult, if not impossible, for horses' feet to be maintained properly if they are stalled for any amount of time. In fact, problems with horses' feet began when human beings began stabling them for their own convenience: lack of movement, coupled with soft bedding and standing in urine and feces caused their feet to break down, resulting in the bright idea of horse shoes to "fix" what we humans broke! Over the centuries, the notion that shoes are "necessary" has been promulgated widely, but the fact is that they are only "necessary" because of our own errors in care.
Grain, too, is something human beings came up with to make their own lives easier. Once horses began being stabled, often in cities, grain was added to the horses' diet to make up for lack of turnout/pasture. The equine gut is not set up for carbohydrate: they eat almost entirely forage in the wild and need nothing else for good health.
Several years ago, hoofcare practitioner Jaime Jackson wrote a book called Paddock Paradise, which has resulted in a paradigm shift for many of us, away from the green rectangle of lush grass (which can be a founder trap for many horses and which actually discourages movement), and towards a turnout structure based on "tracks," or narrow channels, often around the perimeter of of the property, which encourage movement. Part and parcel of Paddock Paradise is careful placement of items of interest--hay, minerals, resting places, etc.--along the track to keep the horses moving towards the next thing. There is a very helpful Wiki now established to help people post their setup maps and discuss options, problems, and ideas. Be sure to check out the Paddock Paradise Wiki!
|Above is a map of my own Blue Heron Farm Paddock Paradise. My farm in Middle Tennessee is 34 acres, some of which cannot be fenced. My turnout area comprises approximately 10 acres of grass, rocky areas, hills, creek, and woods. I do not have much grass most of the year, being located in a "holler" on a creek that is founded on bedrock, but that's actually a good thing! Horses' systems are set up for almost constant nibbling on sparse forage, not for gorging on lush grass, and the epidemic of laminitis speaks to that fact. In lieu of grass, I provide plenty of high-quality grass hay yearround, spread throughout the pasture to encourage movement. I am now using "slow feeders" to dispense hay more slowly and to protect the hay. There is much more on this here.
Until recently my main PP was the Brook Pasture/Arena Pasture Area. I have recently added the new Woodlot.
For more info, see the Tennessee Paddock Paradise page. And keep an eye on the Hoofmaiden and Blue Heron Farm Blog for updates and new info.
|My main turnout area is the combined Brook Pasture and Arena Pasture (see map above). They are gated in various places to allow me to use one or the other, or both simultaneously (as I usually do). When turned out in the entire area, the horses have access to a run-in shed, multiple shaded areas, access to a spring-fed creek, and the outdoor sand arena in which to take sand baths.
The winding aspect of this turnout area encourages the horses to move throughout the day from area to area and activity to activity in a manner very similar to the movement of wild horse herds.
|For that reason, I have not had to do much artificial "tracking." More traditionally-fenced turnouts, however, will require the use of an internal electric fence to create a track around the perimeter. There are maps and explanations of this type of setup at the Paddock Paradise Wiki.|
|Rain or shine, snow or sleet, 10F or 100F, the horses are always out. During Peregrine's first winter, he wore a light turnout sheet sometimes when there was sleet or freezing rain, but since then he's toughened up and rarely needs any help.
Although the horses have run-in sheds, they rarely use them and are more likely to be found out in the open nibbling their hay even in the worst weather.
Read more about establishing natural living arrangements for horses on the links page.
|One of the most interesting aspects of allowing horses to live naturally is observing herd behavior. Here young Rhys, a Connemara X just 2 years old, meets his new herd for the first time. Destiny and Gwen, the mares, sniffed him over carefully (left, above), then ran him around a good bit (right, above) to make sure he understood where his place was!|
|By a few days later, Rhys had moved up the totem pole one slot (above Peregrine who, despite his size, was just a big wimp!), and there he has stayed. But everyone looks out for everyone else. In the photo on the right, the rest of the herd stands watch over the baby while he sleeps.|
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