Tracked grazing is a revolutionary new way of applying grass protection and paddock management for domestic horses.
This method involves horses living outdoors 24/7, on the inner edge of a paddock, which has often been turned into a homemade track by the owner, as can be seen on the photos and diagrams on this page. The premise includes feeding horses lower sugar grasses in the form of hay often made from the middle of owners tracks, provided through slow feeder haynets, whilst the horse has access to limited grasses and other plants while being turned out on these tracks.
There are many variations of this approach, so if this is of interest to you there a wide array of ways to implement Tracking. Whether that is running a long strip of electrical tape with temporary pigtails down one edge of a paddock or making every field into separate tracks with permanent posts and gravel, which ever way you choose to implement this approach can have some great benefits to our horses health.
This style of grazing has been around for about 15-20 years so far and was initially developed to assist with creating a balance between a horse’s grass intake and their 24/7 turnout, in order to prevent and manage horses at risk from conditions such as laminitis and what we have come to know as the term "Grass Affecteness", which is when horses get sick from eating unsuitable pastures containing high sugars and mycotoxins.
This "Paddock Paradise" approach, as it's also sometimes called, is being increasingly embraced by many as a useful tool in order to provide freedom and extra exercise for many horses, who would have previously been locked away in stables and yards and not enjoying their lives to the full due to this confinement.
This different approach to grass management has been found to work so well due to being able to limit a horse’s grass intake whilst still providing freedom to move and exercise, in order to combat a wide variety of diseases and ailments often witnessed by owners when their horses have been grazing full-time on traditional pastures.
This is because a lot of green pasture grasses are unsuitable for horses due to their excessive levels of plant sugars and starches, often modified through farming needs for high weight gain for cows and sheep, all of which can cause a host of medical issues, including weight gain, and diabetes type symptoms, including harmful behavioural highs in addition to the grass toxins attacking the central nervous system for our equine friends.
Whereas the added benefits of Tracking, has shown to also improve these medical, temperamental and behavioural changes, that some owners have previously been unable to achieve with their horses when grazing in the old-fashioned way of horses being on 24/7 full time pasture.
Why does this work ....
Horses naturally follow trails and tracks in the wild, as that is how they map their home-ranges. So we can implement this natural behaviour for them by setting up an easy and cheap tracked grazing system from anything as small as an 1/2 acre upwards as shown in the diagram above.
This encourages your horse to move their feet to eat and forage for food, which is great for general health plus all the extra movement improves circulation, along with having the added bonus of developing excellent and strong barefoot hooves too, whilst restricting unsuitable grass intake.
It is this movement that allows for 24/7 turnout-even for those with grass restrictions like miniatures or horses prone to founder/laminitis.
Now as I'm such a sceptic, so of course I had to test this out fully to see if it worked before using this method. Therefore, I used a digital pedometer and GPS tracker attached to my herds halters and monitored this over several weeks with them on a track, and then again on a traditional paddock, and guess what-yes it definitely made a difference, and to my pleasant surprise my horses walked on average 5000 more steps per day when on a track compared to a traditional paddock of the same size of area.
All this adds up to a lot more mileage over 365 days per year. Plus I could restrict their green grass intake without being cruel and locking them up, which made me (and them) feel better, especially those in danger of developing laminitis/founder etc...
That was 16 years ago and we have never looked back. I have tried many different approaches over the years and have since gone on to become more imaginative with my track, and added gravel, and river stones, crushed lime etc....and placed the water troughs in strategic locations as to encourage even more movement of my herd....putting herbs in pots and hay in our slow-feed hay nets in various locations as to encourage the herd forage for their food as to create more movement..... You can Google for more info on this and we recommend the following for in depth info Paddock Paradise Book by Jaime Jackson.
Whichever way you decide to do it, tracked grazing definitely has lots of positive benefits.