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.
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.