Paddock Paradise Grazing
Here is a Method That is Helping Horse Owners Keep Barefoot Horses Sound
While we were trying to work out the best way to keep our horses and how to “incorporate the wild horse hoof model” into the daily living of our domesticated horses, Jaime Jackson published, ‘Paddock Paradise,’ a guide to Natural
The barefoot grazing idea, outlined in his book is very simple, but very
clever. He suggests making a track around the perimeter of your field for your horses to live on all
Food, water, shelter etc are positioned around it, in different
places, so encouraging the horses to remain on the move all the
time. The idea is quite amazing, so simple but yet unique in the horse world today and it not only benefits the horses but it also gives you your land back.
Paddock Paradise is well worth reading in order to gain greater
understanding of this barefoot grazing concept. The theory is all there, it is then just
a matter of transferring that theory into practice, in your own
Outlined below are the basics that you will need to set up a Paddock Paradise track:-
To set up a fence line around the perimeter of your field the easiest thing to use is electric fencing. You may eventually want to us other types of fencing. However the advantage of working with the electric fencing is that you can move it. We have adjusted ours several times now and are still improving it and rearranging it.
It is not until you have done a complete year that you will have a complete overview of how this type of track is going to work.
So for the electric fencing you will need to buy the following:-
- Electric fencing tape
- Electric Fencing Posts
- Mains Powered Energizers or Battery Powered Energizers
- Gates and Handles
- Wooden posts
If you have available a mains supply it is a huge advantage not having to check and buy new batteries for a powered energizer and is worth spending the extra on a mains powered energizer.
not matter what size your field is.
The wooden posts are needed every so often as they create extra support to the electric fencing tape.
They are particularly good if positioned on any corners or bends of the fence line and will make the electric fencing safer much more stable and secure.
Water, Hay, Minerals etc
Within the track place water, hay, (see our Feeding Horses Hay
page for ideas on how to implement feeding hay) and mineral blocks as well as providing a sheltered area.
(This may be simply some existing trees which are already there, or a field
Different Types of Footing
In addition to the above you can add different types of
footings, e.g. stones, boulders, dried out areas and stony areas.
Above is a picture of horses on the move, on a barefoot grazing track. You can see the stony surface, which is hardcore (stones) that we added to this track.
The stones on the track enhance and toughen up their hooves.
When setting up the barefoot grazing track, keep in mind that the idea is that
the horse is continually on the move, as in the wild, in order for
it to meet its daily requirements. So hay, water mineral blocks
need to be positioned as far apart from each other, as possible.
The width of the barefoot grazing track needs to vary, to create some
interest. The wider parts can be 40 ft wide and then you can have some
narrower parts e.g. 20 ft. All this will encourage forward movement.
I.e. not too wide and not too narrow. (The above has worked for
This barefoot grazing track creates the following advantages:-
- Continuous movement of the horse outside, independent of the owner.
- Continuous concussion and movement on their feet which is
essential for the development and maintenance of the internal
structures of the hooves.
- Companionship, as the track is suitable for more than one
- Easy grazing management
- The potential to make your own hay from the center of the field.
- Reduced time and maintenance on pooh picking
The above is a very simple explanation of how managing your
barefoot grazing paddocks can help you towards maintaing your horses barefoot hooves.
After the initial cost of setting up a barefoot grazing
track if you have enough ground in the centre of your field to make your own hay this can then become quite a cost effective way of keeping horses. In reality what you are doing is, “managing your grazing area” productively.
We found that we were able to make enough hay from the centre of our fields to become self sufficient.
We were then in a position to cut the hay at the best time of day, when the sugar levels were at their lowest.
You will need to work what the perimeter of your field is and then from that work out how much electric fencing you will need.
Remember to include the cost of the energizers as the electric ones are quite expensive.
Then you need to work out the cost of making hay. The easiest thing to do is to find a local contractor to advise you.
We were not able to estimate how much hay, in fact we had no idea! But it made sense to make hay as if you are making your own hay it has to be cheaper than buying it.
Providing some kind of shelter for your horses in your fields and paddocks needs to be considered.
They may need this to protect themselves:-
- In the summer months, from sun and flies,
- In the winter months, from driving rain and snow.
It maybe just some:-
- Trees and overhanging branches
- Or a timber field shelter.
You can buy ‘mobile’ field shelters which in the UK require
no planning permission. You may want to put some rubber mats or scalpings down inside so the ground does not become too poached.
Our Shelter Experience
First we did not have any real sheltered area, but the horses
survived. Then gradually they showed us where they liked to stand
There were some large over hanging branches in several areas around the field and these
have provided quite a bit of shelter. Interestingly, they use it much more in the
summer than the winter months which surprised us.
The picture below shows one of these areas. The area is quite a bit deeper and more protected than it appears in picture.
Finding Shelter in Your Fields
It is worth spending time looking at how the ground lies, where
the wind comes from and where they tend to stand. From this you
will then be able to work out:-
- Whether there is enough shelter
- Or whether you need to buy a field shelter.
Ideally one would like to have them on the paddock paradise track all year round.
The track in itself becomes a project. It will depend on your
environment and the conditions of the ground as to what you will
need to do to make this possible.
You may need to make some ditches to assist drainage if your ground is very wet.
Setting it up in the summer can be quite easy and then you can gradually
work on it and add to it, so that long term it can be used
throughout the year or for just part of the year. We have now found that we can’t use our paddock paradise in the very wet winter months.
The object is to try and get different footings on the track,
stones, boulders, pea gravel, hard core, sand etc.
In the above picture you can see a stony surface, which we added to part of our paddock paradise track. We used hardcore, an inexpensive stone that you can get from any builders merchant or quarry. This has been laid down now for well over a year.
Here is a more detailed picture of the stones.
The weeds that have subsequently grown through, have secured the stones further to the soil.
Natural Horse Track
Just beyond the stones in the above picture you can see a single worn track. The horses create their own single track within the paddock paradise track.
When this first began to show it was so exciting, as you could actually see evidence of their continuous movement on the track. Which is what we were trying to create – continuous movement as in the wild….. (Well done Jaime Jackson – it works)
We set up a barefoot grazing track in spring 2006, after Paddock
Paradise came out and the horses remained on it through to November
of that year.
It was a huge success. The horses and their hooves benefited,
and they remained fitter and leaner. It also saved us a great deal
of time managing the grazing and there was no worry of them all
putting on excess weight during the summer months.
We had to close off our paddock paradise track off in the autumn as it became too
muddy for us to manage and we realized we needed to work further on
the track to make it work all year round. We also needed to incorporate
more wooden posts in-between the plastic electric fencing posts, to keep the electric fencing more stable and secure.
During the winter months they were back in the centre of the
Then in March 2007 we were able to put them back on our paddock paradise/grazing
track. They have remained on the track ever since. The barefoot grazing track has helped us enormously with maintaining their hooves.
Two years on from first setting up the track.
There have been some tremendous advantages but like anything new there have also been problems. Where we are now is an amalgamation of all that we have experienced and learnt with the track. There are things we have kept and there are things we have had to change.
So although we have had some problems managing the track we have had no problems with the health of all our horses. The track has helped them all enormously and in addition, due to the track this has meant we have been able to make our own hay – a huge cost saving benefit.
One of the biggest problems was due to our climate here the track became very trashed. So I knew we had to think again and go back to the drawing board. This has resulted in more work but I think we have found the best solution for us here in the UK. To read more about go to Horse Grazing.
If you want more information on paddock paradise tracks please go to Paddock Paradise Questions or if you would like to contribute to how your track has worked for you please go to Paddock Paradise Stories and tell us your story.