Well it has been a pretty hot and dry summer here. There hasn’t been too much to report until now on the Paddock Paradise experience so I haven’t updated lately. So, here’s what has been going on.

The trials and tribulations of managing horses with differing dietary needs….

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Until last week I was still allowing the horses access to the pastures at night to graze and putting them on the track during the day. I was doing that because I have a just turned yearling and I wanted her to have the benefit of grazing thinking it was best for her during this period of growing. The problem though is that my other three were getting too fat. I also noticed that my mare was lacking energy again. During the day they weren’t really going on track much, but just hanging out at the barn resting. Then we stopped getting any rain for the past 3 weeks and the grass is pretty dried up, so time to just take them off the pasture all together. I guess I needed that last push. Old habits die hard.

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I decided to put them on track full time with hay spread in little piles in a huge circle. I put out hay in the morning and in the evening because my work schedule doesn’t allow time for me to feed more than twice a day. I also purchased a scale so I could weight the hay and make sure I do not overfeed, as I have a habit of doing when I am “eyeballing” it. I also put my filly in a paddock for about an hour in the morning and evening to eat some hay on her own (just to be sure she is getting enough).

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So the verdict….

I was expecting my mare to get grumpy about not being on pasture at all anymore. I was also worried about them eating all the hay quickly and then being without forage for many hours until I got home. Well, so far this has not been the case. My mare is very perky and happy (even with it being extremely hot, humid and buggy). They are spreading out their hay intake throughout the day because when I get home at night (or go out in the morning to check) there is always a few morsels left here and there. But the best part is they are in constant motion. Ok, I am sold. It took me awhile, but I am thrilled with this so far and even when the pasture comes back in this fall I think I will just continue to use the track full time.

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Next….

I can’t wait to see if this helps with some self trimming of hooves. I have added more gravel around the barn area. It has been so dry that I have not been that motivated to spread more gravel on the track. It is so hard and packed on its own right now. I will do more graveling this fall when the weather cools down some.

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So that is all for now. I have just included some pictures from this summer of my horses in different places on the track. Thank you Carmon for your inspiration for being more diligent to carry my camera with me more. Your stunning photos of your horses has really inspired me.

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My Paddock Paradise in central Missouri

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Some basic stats:

21 acres, approximately 12 acres accessible to horses

Mostly hardwood forest

About 4 acres pasture

Home to 4 horses

I have always kept my horses barefoot except for short periods here and there. They had never had a real barefoot trim however until I started trimming them about 3 years ago. It has been a learning curve. All four horses are very easy keepers and I have always had to restrict their grass intake during the growing season. The problem was that while I had them off grass in a dry lot they were bored and my mare would get very grumpy.

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The Paddock Paradise ideas have given me a way to be able to restrict their grass intake while also allowing them ample recreation and movement. I am sure I will see improvements in their muscle development and hooves over time. I have already seen a dramatic improvement in their attitude.

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I am relatively lucky because my property has lots of topography relative to this area in general. When we first moved into the property I fenced off about 1 acre around the barn to serve as the dry lot and restricted them from the rest of the property that included much more acres of woods and pasture. As a result of the Paddock Paradise concept I have now instead just fenced off the pasture and opened up access to all the wooded acres, which includes a great little frog pond and lots of trails that were already present. The horses have also started to make a few new trails as they wander and get more familiar with their new environment.

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At this time I do not have the trails in the wood fenced. I am waiting to see what their patterns are to see if this will be necessary. There is one large section of woods that there are no trails through at this time. I plan on making a new spur trail to tie into the barn paddock this winter. I have also started to gravel portions of the paths. I hope to continue this over time so most of them are graveled for foot conditioning.

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I will keep this information updated and the experiment continues.