[dropcap]O[/dropcap]ur horses today live truly domestic lives, and often they are deprived of a natural environment that can impact the small things – like hoof care. Paddock Paradise is a management concept that was first adopted in the United States as a means of providing domestic horses with an environment that is similar to their natural habitat.
In 2007, Jaime Jackson released the book Paddock Paradise: A Guide to Natural Horse Boarding. The book serves as a model to horse owners on safe and natural horse ownership, and also includes sections on hoof care, as well as rehabilitating a lame horse.
Why Paddock Paradise?
The idea behind Paddock Paradise is that the horses behave and act according to their natural instincts. The model of Paddock Paradise is adaptable for all size horse properties, irrespective of climate. The model works for all horse breeds, and owners can truly reap the benefits.
The principal goal of Paddock Paradise is to achieve soundness and good health in the horse, whether he’s a competitive ride or happy hack. The model encourages more natural movement, as horses would have in nature. Constant movement is imperative for the soundness of any horse. Greater movement on varied terrain also improves natural hoof wear, meaning that your horses might need fewer trimmings by the farrier, provided that they are barefoot horses.
The model also discusses natural forage options, reduced warm-up time before schooling, and alleviating spooky or tense behaviour in young or nervous horses.
Ideally, you want as big a space as possible for horses to roam. However, limited space and the price of property mean that most horse owners in South Africa are based on smaller properties. Many horses are also turned out individually to reduce the risk of accidents happening – but horses are horses and an accident can happen even in the small space of a stable. Consider merging some of the paddocks to make one bigger one, where the setup for Paddock Paradise is more effective.
Paddock Paradise advises owners to create tactful, narrow tracks for the horses to travel on. The track fencing can be constructed with electric or rope fence, which is convenient as the track can then be adjusted when necessary. The track can be fenced on the perimeter of the paddock, provided you have a large enough space, but it can also cut across the paddock at a diagonal or curve, depending on the type of terrain you want to cover.
Horses instinctively travel in single file, as they are animals of prey, making a narrow track suitable. As they travel, they stop to eat, drink, roll and interact with the other horses in their herd. Along the track, owners are encouraged to place different terrain, or obstacles, that horses would naturally encounter in the wild. You can place a patch of gravel to mimic hard, rocky terrain, which will aid in strengthening the horses’ feet. Patches of soft river sand provide nice areas for the horses to rest or enjoy a roll. You could even place a small log or fallen tree in the path as a natural obstacle. If you are lucky enough to have a pond or river running through your property, allow the track to go through this, so that the horses learn to go through water. Don’t worry about a horse being left behind if he hates water. His natural instincts will kick in and he will far rather take the plunge than risk being left behind.
The natural forward movement and the varied footing contribute hugely to the soundness and hoof health of any horse.
The full article appears in the September INTERNATIONAL ISSUE of HQ > Shop now