When I first started down the natural hoof care route in 2002, I struggled with the concept of creating more movement for my horses. I hated confining them to a “dry lot” and I couldn’t allow my laminitic-prone horse out on a big pasture with lush green grass.
I know that feeling of being torn between my horse not getting enough movement and the danger of turning her out on pasture during high-risk times of the year.
As I’ve stated in many of my previous articles, movement is the number one ingredient to a naturally healthy horse and especially for healthy hoof form.
So what’s the solution to creating more movement for your horse? Let me give you a hint. Start by reading the book: Paddock Paradise, A Guide to Natural Horse Boarding by Jaime Jackson.
About Jaime Jackson
There’s a lot to say about Jaime Jackson but in a nutshell I consider him one of the founding fathers of natural hoof care. In my article Learning The Wild Horse Trim – Making The Leap I shared with you how I got started with natural hoof care. Jaime Jackson’s research and teachings were a big part of my journey and still are to this day.
A great deal of people give up too easily when they encounter push-back or destructive criticism from others in any form. I’m thankful that Jaime Jackson didn’t give up his beliefs despite the backlash he received in the early days before the term “natural hoof care” was in our vocabulary.
Think of the multitude of horses that probably wouldn’t have been saved if he did, which probably would have included one of my own horses.
He’s a true pioneer of natural hoof care so it should come as no surprise that it was a matter of time before he would seek answers to one of my most burning questions – what’s the best way to create more movement for our horses 24/7 and closely mimic how wild horses move?
What Is Paddock Paradise – A Guide to Natural Horse Boarding About?
The Paddock Paradise book is an excellent guide to get you started on developing your own natural boarding arrangement.
When most people hear the term natural horse boarding the first thing that may come to mind is that it requires a large area of land when, in reality, this is far from the truth.
A Paddock Paradise can be implemented on small or large acreage. The only limitation is your imagination. It’s a model for safe, natural horse keeping, hoof care, and the healing and rehabilitation of lame horses.
This natural boarding concept is intended to encourage constant movement, as nature intended, as well as allow horses to behave according to their instincts. As a result we have a healthier horse mentally, physically and emotionally.
Getting Inside the Book Paddock Paradise
In order to stimulate healthy, sound, naturally shaped hooves, a horse must be allowed continuous movement. Traditional unnatural boarding practices, for example, stalls, lush green pastures, small pens, etc., go against us in a multitude of fashions and can cause lame horses over time.
If you have ever heard someone speak against natural hoof care and say it doesn’t work for one reason or another, more than likely continuous movement was missing from their program. Of the three ingredients to natural hoof care, continuous movement is the most important.
Jamie goes over these concepts in detail in his Paddock Paradise book.
The introduction to Paddock Paradise is an excellent summary of why traditional boarding methods don’t work and the benefits of implementing a natural boarding system. The list below contains just a few of these benefits, which is addressed in the introduction:
- Puts horses in a simulated natural environment
- Is simple in its architecture
- Stimulates natural movement and socialization patterns
- Is the perfect place for the healing or prevention of various lameness issues such as navicular syndrome and laminitis
- Readily enables natural feeding patterns that are consistent and integral with the horse’s digestive system
- Facilitates the implementation of a safe (i.e., founder-free) diet in a controllable feeding environment
- Stimulates continuous natural movement – can act as a warm-up session in order to prepare the horse for various sports or jobs
My Favorite Part of This Book
My favorite part of the Paddock Paradise book is one that I feel is the most important. It’s the Lessons From the Wild, Chapter 1.
What you’ll learn in that chapter alone is fascinating and will be your most powerful asset when designing your Paddock Paradise system. These lessons will help you closely mimic how horses interact and move in the wild.
Jamie then takes those lessons and, in Chapter 3, teaches you practical application using the Paddock Paradise natural boarding system.
A brief overview of my personal experiences using the Paddock Paradise
The Paddock Paradise book was first published in January 2006. I received my copy in February 2006. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this book. I first heard about the concept in a clinic I hosted toward the end of January 2006 with Pete Ramey.
In April of 2006, I implemented a first draft of my Paddock Paradise track system and, to this day, I’m still experimenting with it to encourage many miles of movement.
I’ve been using and recommending this form of natural horse boarding for more than 5 years now and I’m still in love with the concept. My observations line up with many others who are using this form of boarding. For example:
- My horses do move constantly other than the times they are camping, meaning they rest several times during the day for short periods – usually in the same place each time.
- I’ve noticed a huge difference between my horses’ hooves and other people’s “barefoot” horses who don’t get near the amount of movement. In general, the more movement a horse gets, the healthier the hoof form.
- My two geriatric horses (they’re both in their mid twenties) stay limber and their old aches and pains are almost non-existent. I can easily trim them without them telling me they’re sore or arthritic, which is far better than most 3-5 year old horses in training. I find that amazing. It’s sad when a 3-5 year old horse is more sore than horses in their twenties who get plenty of movement.
- Even if you have a horse that doesn’t like to move a lot, the other horses will cause her to move. This is where the socialization part comes in to play.
I could go on and on with this list. I’ve found that the benefits far outweigh any thing negative that others may say about this type of boarding system.
“On Track” – What does this mean?
In this article I’ve used the words system and track somewhat interchangeably. I prefer to call the concept of the Paddock Paradise a track system. As you will see once you read the book, Jaime Jackson talks about wild horses being “on track.”
This is an important concept to grasp.
Through Jaime’s research, he studied how wild horses move. What he discovered is that they move “on track” throughout their home range.
Think about it, have you ever noticed a nicely worn cattle track throughout a large pasture? I grew up on a cattle farm and I would ride my horse through our 500 acres. Many times I would follow the cattle track. It was perfect!
Horses will move in a similar fashion, if allowed.
Jaime observed that at the heart of a wild horse’s home range may be multiple water holes and that all band movement would center around them. When mapping out the trails or tracks of a typical Great Basin wild horse home range, the tracks would lead away from the water holes and eventually turn back to them.
It’s interesting because wild horses “on track” don’t like to leave their home ranges. Horses in general prefer to stay in surroundings that are familiar to them and, therefore, wild horses will tend to stay on the same tracks that center around their water source(s).
This part of the book is fascinating to me and it played a huge role in how I designed my own personal Paddock Paradise track system.
My personal track system creates a maze around a portion of my property. The track itself measures right at 1/4 mile, however, your track doesn’t have to be that big. A track system smaller would work just fine if designed properly.
Buy or Don’t Buy
If you want to learn more about creating a natural horse boarding system (large or small) this is an excellent resource and, to my knowledge, is the only competent resource. This is a book I have used over an over again for many years with great success.
As I previously stated, I’m still experimenting. Once you implement your Paddock Paradise system you’ll experiment too. Eventually you’ll find what works for you and your horse and you’ll more than likely start to come up with many different ways to create a stunning setup.
Will I ever read this book cover to cover again? Probably not. I will continue to use it as a reference when I feel I need to look up information on lessons from the wild or when I want more ideas for my setup. It’s definitely a book I would not want to do without.
Start your journey into real natural horse boarding and remember – the only limitation is your imagination. 🙂
Keep it soulful,
If you enjoyed this article, you might also like…
- Soulful Equine’s Core Principles Video
- The First Rule Of Natural Horse Care
- 7 Warning Signs That Your Horse Keeping Is Inferior
- How to Use Horse Watering Behavior For Powerful Natural Boarding
- How to Manage Horse Manure Naturally
- Acres USA – A Voice for Eco-Agriculture Review
- Six Ways To Tell You Need A Natural Horse Care Consultant