Track systems have become the new “buzz” word in the horse world during recent years. But what are they? Are they useful or just a fad?
Simply put, a Track System is an area that is fenced off in the landscape that encourages horses to move around – a long passage which is designed to encourage almost continuous movement (as horses would in the wild, moving from feeding to watering over long distances). Horses are no longer restricted to a paddock. This system was originally developed by Jaime Jackson who called it Paddock Paradise (book available on Amazon). Some specifically designed track systems incorporate:
- A variety of different surfaces, such as grass, gravel and wood chips, and different gradients – up and down hills, through woodland perhaps.
- Feeding and watering stations that are in different areas to encourage movement between the two areas.
- Sheltered areas where horses can socialise, rest, but where they can also enter and leave as they wish.
Some track systems are completely grass-free, which can be useful if managing EMS horses, horses prone to or susceptible to laminitis, those who require weight management or who require a grass-free existence.
Some track systems are on grass which restricts grazing without limiting movement, thus encouraging a healthy weight through exercise/movement. This can be useful too for those prone to weight gain, retired horses or those in little or no work.
Without a doubt, track systems can also present some difficulties:
- Mud! Here in the UK, track systems can be difficult to maintain if mud becomes a problem (in the absence of differing surfaces – gravel, concrete etc), particularly during the winter. However, some owners find a solution by utilising a track during the summer months, allowing central unused areas to grow long, then utilise the centre during the winter months, feeding the tall forage as standing hay.
- Expense! Some owners believe the installation of a track system is prohibitively expensive. However, whilst some owners do go to the expense of installing a properly designed track system, many can go for a simpler option – finding that an extra line of electric fence around the edge of a field yields all the benefits of a track system at a fraction of the cost.
As a Livery Yard Owner too (I run my Yard from my home in Kent), I have created two grass track systems on-site. These are quite basic – set up with an additional line of electric fence. During the summer months, we use the tracks extensively. We tend to keep the horses in twos (with their favourite buddy) and two are on a track during the day, returning to their paddock overnight, whilst another two enjoy the freedom of a track overnight. The same system is applied to our other grass track, thus allowing all our liveries to enjoy the benefits of a track life! We ensure that there is an ample supply of hay placed strategically at the furthest point from the water source for those who don’t require a limited diet, and of course, for those who do we can provide as much or as little hay as required. Interestingly, they always seem to travel around clockwise! All I can say is that all the horses love it and look very eager when it’s “change-over” time. It has enabled me to enhance and enrich the horse’s lives. I can also rest paddocks in a way that I could not do before with conventional grazing.
Equine Nutrition Consultant,
Pro Dip Equine Nutrition, MCMI.
Copyright © The Healthy Horse Company September 2021