The track paddock concept began with Jamie Jackson's book, Paddock Paradise, which detailed his concept of the most natural and healthy way to keep horses, mimicking natural horse behavior patterns and diet. More movement, less fresh grass, increased natural behavior and social interactions.
Having evolved in semi-desert environments, it is not natural or healthy for horses to eat unlimited lush grass day after day. This is especially true in the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky, where the grass is especially rich, and over consumption can lead to metabolic problems. It is often thought that only ponies and obese horses have these issues, but that is not accurate; all breeds can be at risk here.
Dry lots can be life savers for at risk horses, but they are small and often isolated, depriving the horses of movement and social interaction. Muzzles can help limit grass intake on pasture, but for some horses it is still too much grass. They also limit the horses' social interactions, can cause rubs, and can be removed by the horse, allowing them unintended full access to grass.
Horses can benefit from the best of both worlds when living on a track paddock. It is essentially a huge long dry lot loop that allows the horses to live in herds and get plenty of exercise and mental stimulation, without over consumption of grass or wearing muzzles. Our horses thrive on the controlled diet of a dry lot, but with the lifestyle of a pasture, typically covering several miles a day.
Track paddocks are essentially a fence within a fence, creating a track. There are usually wider areas designed for feeding, rolling, or loafing. Different footing can be added in various locations to control mud and stimulate healthy hoof growth. Hay slow feeders can be added all around the track to mimic natural wandering and foraging behavior.
Our main surfaced track paddock was built in 2018. We have pea gravel loafing areas, two stonedust paddocks and two sand rolling pits. The gravel track is fully surfaced with various substrates, and thus is entirely mud-free. The surfaced track is located on a hillside, which adds to the horses' self exercise. We also have a larger summer dirt track for horses who tolerate limited grazing in dry weather.
We have now added a second track paddock around the larger field. It has grass, wildflowers and herbs for the horses to browse. It has several gates opening up into various grass pastures, giving options for different grazing management as appropriate. Our facility layout and management is a track paddock / EquiCentral style hybrid design. The grass track is only used for horses who are metabolically stable, and during dry weather.