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free range stabling concept: paddock trail

Paddock trail or paddock paradise

A paddock trail is a free range stabling concept developed by former hoof care professional Jamie Jackson in the USA. He spent several years studying wild horses in Nevada and following them on their tracks. Fascinated by how healthy they were, especially of course by the excellent condition of their hooves, he attempted to apply his observations as far as possible to the care of domestic horses.

What does a paddock trail look like?

A paddock trail’s core element is the so-called track, a 3-5 meter wide strip leading around the perimeter of the available area. This simulates the tracks used by wild horses. Everything the horses need is distributed in as much variety as possible along the track: hay, mineral blocks, water, shelter, rolling areas.

To ensure optimal hoof condition (appropriate growth and wear), the track should feature different ground coverings, especially those most prevalent along the riding trails. So if you’re planning to ride on gravel trails, a section of the track should also be covered with gravel.

Inclines and slopes, rocks or bushes can also enrich this free range stabling concept, as they can create both a challenge and more variety for your horses.

Hay should be provided in as many places as possible as it is the best way of encouraging exercise. Jackson suggests distributing a large number of small heaps along the track. As this isn’t terribly practical (especially not under German weather conditions), small mesh nets or specially designed racks that encourage slow feeding are generally used.

The paddock trail concept is still subject to development. The first trails were founded in 2006. In his book, Jamie Jackson also encourages his readers to experiment and asks them to report back on their findings.

For the sake of clarity :in the USA, Jamie Jackson has called his concept Paddock Paradise. In Europe, however, there has been some disagreement on who owns the rights to the name. For this reason, the term paddock trail has been established in Germany.

Advantages of the paddock trail compared to other free range stabling concepts:

  • A paddock trail allows the horses to keep out of each other’s way. Therefore, the overall atmosphere is very peaceful. In our experience, low ranking horses thrive best with this form of stabling.
  • Maximized distances, especially during the months when the pastures are not available.
  • The horses can live according to their own rhythms, no “demands” placed on them by feeding technology.
  • Group feeding

Problems or disadvantages of a paddock trail?

  • As feeding concentrates is relatively labor intensive (catching and tethering all the horses or hanging feeding buckets around their necks), we only feed them one meal per day. The owners can of course provide additional feeds. But for this reason, this type of stabling is still inconvenient for horses who need to be fed more than 2 kg of concentrate per day.
  • Free choice hay feeding only works well if the hay is low in sugars. Feeding the unfortunately “common” cow hay will make some of the horses too fat.
  • Distributing hay along the track in nets or racks does ensure that low ranking horses will always be able to find a feeding spot. But depending on the structure of the herd and how the feeding spots are distributed, the horses may stay at one feeding stop in a group (because the herd prefers to stay together) meaning that only the high ranking horses will get a turn.

Here are two examples from our own Gut Heinrichshof: paddock trail 1 and paddock trail 2

Interesting links …


THE AUTHOR

Offenstall Autorin

Tanja Romanazzi, born 1970, studied computer science and physics and completed her doctorate in multi media technology.

Following the birth of her first daughter in 2000, established a riding stable near Dresden, now home to over 70 horses, more than 25 years of experience with her own and other people's horses, eventing (dressage) up to the highest levels, foal training.

Trained as an alternative veterinary practitioner at the BTB (Bildungswerk für therapeutische Berufe - training centre for therapeutic professions), REIKI (grade III) and three years of study at the German School for Radionics.

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