Tracking systems/ Paddock Paradise

Miniature Horse Talk Forums

Help Support Miniature Horse Talk Forums:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.

Max's Mom

Well-Known Member
Apr 1, 2013
Reaction score
Southern Maine
Our mini has been boarded for years, and is currently living in a smallish drylot by himself. He does have full sized horses on the other side of the fence. I'm planning on moving him to my home in the spring. We will be getting him a buddy.

We have about 1 1/4 acre, mostly grass with some woodsy area along the back property line, of which I can use about 3/4 acres for the horses. Max cannot safely eat much grass, but I want to give him a lot of room to move about and "be a horse". I have read the book "Paddock Paradise" and would like to set up a track system through our property. Along the track would be feeding stations, a shelter, sunny areas and shady ones. It just seems like this would be so much more enriching than standing in place all day in a small paddock.

I'm very interested to hear about those of you who have such systems, and how it worked or didn't work for you. Suggestions? Thanks!
Last edited by a moderator:
Seems a lot of people have viewed this but no one has responded. I'm guessing it's because no one has used the system, including me. It sounds like a great idea. Let us know how it turns out if you go for it.
I have been reading about this for some years now, having come across it way back when the Swedish Hoof School(?) was the first to advocate methods of making slow feeders. I think it sounds like a winning idea! I have not tried it simply because I have a larger acreage and cannot afford what it would cost to put in even a simple electric 'inner' fence for the track(electric fencing is hard to get to work here, due to very dry soil, too.) Several years ago, I went to an acquaintances's home to see her horses--while there, noticed that a neighbor of hers had a 'track' in play, and horses turned out on it...though I didn't see any shelter, and there was NO shady spots(dearth of trees in this country, which is high desert, basically.)I would absolutely support the idea of putting one in place,complete w/ all the features you mention! I'd say,'go for it'!
I agree with the other comments. I first came across this a bit over a year ago, and tried to put it into play to the extent I could. I don't have a full track system yet, but have added some of the features such as the shelter structure, the different terrains in the paddock, and the feeding stations (my horses have free access to hay in the feeding stations). I LOVE the features that I have implemented so far, and have seen good improvements in my horses weights, their feet (AMAZING). I only end up trimming every 8 weeks or so, and usually I only have to rasp off a little. I used to trim every six weeks and always have to clip some growth. So, I fully endorse trying it out, and would love for you to post more about your experience as you do. I will likely be moving this coming summer, and plan on setting up my next place completely based on the paddock paradise model. For a bit more reading, here is a link to one of my favorite horse blogs I like to ready. She discusses aspects of the system in pretty good detail:
Thanks for your responses! I figure this will be a work in progress. I will report on it after we get started! I think it sounds like a great idea, but since I haven't tried it or seen it "in person" I'm keen on learning from others!
I'm loving this topic!

I had never heard of the book Paddock Paradise. ...had to Google it. I also looked at Brody's link. We've been tinkering with similar ideas. I first learned of such outer "track" type set-ups on an Australian site; I also saw a few UK sites. [i lost the link to the Australian site which is really bugging me, because it was primarily where I learned a lot about grasses and pasture.] Anyway...

Our pastures have wooden perimeter fencing. Our two girls initially had roughly 3 acres, which we had split into one narrower section and 3 larger sections with electric wire. Our filly developed laminitis January of last year. (Nothing to do with pasture; other dumb decisions on my part (having to do with free-feeding hay/alfalfa.)) At that time, we yanked all the electrical interior fencing down; stuffed the girls into a 40x60 ft. dry/mud/dust lot next to their stalls (stalls are about 20x15ft.) at night and then as we had time re-did our interior electric fences, so they could go outside during the day. I can't really tell you the size of our current enclosure (I suck at eyeballing lengths.) But I do remember that we bought 50 T-posts to make their new interior "race-track." The posts are spaced about 8 ft., maybe 10 ft. apart. We used what I call "double gate handles" and made conductive loops on all the sections so I could section it off cross-wise and only allow them access to limited sections of their "track" (That explanation made no sense at all, probably.) My latest fencing idea is still a work-in-progress, but I have high hopes for this arrangement. (I bet the husband has high hopes for it also, because he's installed and ripped out more electric than any husband should endure.)

A couple comments after examining the links here...

--- Here in WA state, I'd have to say that putting in artificial mud wallows for hoof moisture is a definite non-necessity.

--- I'm skeptical regarding "enrichment" items, such as large rocks or poles/logs, placed on the track. It breaks my heart, but every night we put the girls into their stalls with access to the mud lot. And every morning when I let them out, they haul butt and RUN!! They're so wound up with energy, it's kind of scary. I look at those obstacles in the photos and envision snapped horsey legs.

Edited-to-add: It doesn't get dry here all that often, but when it does dry out in the summer, I pour water on the ground rod (like, maybe a gallon or so) to make sure the fences are conducting current.
Last edited by a moderator:
I have read about the track systems but feel no need to put one in place. I only have a couple of pastures that are flat and open, most are hilly or have patches of trees and underbrush, rocks are a norm and can not be cleared since they are a part of the soil and very in size from about a dime to bigger than my dining room table. AngC, my horses run thro all kinds of hazards and have no problem. I have never had one hurt themselves, the hazards are always in the same place and they know their land well. In fact I believe the variety of terrain and hazards are entertaining to them and help them learn to pay attention to where they place their feet even when they are running like loons.

edited to add

for feeding in summer when they get hay I spread it out in rivers very thin to mimic grazing for them. No standing in one place and taking big mouthfuls and no one horse gets to hoard a big pile to themselves.
Last edited by a moderator:
Paddock we're talking. My 24 ponies and 4 donkeys have been on track for about 3 months now. Previously they were allowed into a paddock a couple of hours morning and evening and confined to a ''dry lot'' the rest of the time. I hated it. They now have grass hay 24/7 in slow feeder nets at 3 feeding stations. They move around the track several times during the day and rest in various areas when they feel inclined. The theory is that once they finally understand that there will always be food available they will eventually return to a more natural way of living and eating and the continual movement around the track builds fitness.

What's happening? Well they are moving would be hard to move less than they were. Some of them are so fat I'm afraid their skin will split. Some are thin and are getting supplementary feeds. I'm trying to stay strong. The ponies seem happy and are all sleek and shiny (it is summer here) and it's much nicer to see them moving around than confined.

I'm in the process of extending the track so it will be about a kilometre long with more feeding stations.

Founder has always been my fear hence the previous management but I'm still paranoid because some of them are now fatter than they have ever been. I'm hoping that the self regulating kicks in soon and the extra exercise keeps founder at bay. I really want to stick with this system but................

And yes, hay 24/7 for this amount of animals costs an absolute fortune.

As well as the Paddock Paradise Book there is a Facebook page where you can ask questions of the ''experts''. .
As others have mentioned, I am really enjoying the discussion going on in this thread too. For the last while I thought about posting something about it, but thought folks might think I was crazy trying this out with my miniatures. It is awesome to read about others experiences and to find out that so many mini owners are implementing this system to one extent or another.

When I read the book, and several other blogs and readings I felt strongly about trying it, but pretty much everything that had been written about and commented on was with full size horses. There were many places and passages that suggested it would be a good idea for minis as well, but that there wasn't much information on it. Well, I think the experience trying it out with minis is beginning to surface through this thread!

Also, @Helicopter - thanks for the heads up about the Facebook group. I wasn't aware of it, and I'm sure it will come in handy when I move and start planning out my next farm/property!
One reason I am tickled pink to read of this here on the forums is that I've been trying to implement similar ideas here and was feeling like I'm some sort of whack-job. I've been trying to figure it out on my own.

Thanks, Reignmaker Miniatures for the comment regarding hazards. I know. I understand and I try to let go. For example, we have big cedar/doug fir stumps. They get slicker than snot when wet. We've fenced all of them off, except one. The girls love standing on that stump. It's cute to see them there, but I worry. However, the only moron who's ever slipped on one of the other cedar stumps is me (and smacked my face down on the rocks we'd piled next to said stump to the tune of a bunch of stitches.) On the other hand, a horse down the road was put down because it snapped its foreleg. I never really thought about it, but I guess I figured a horse could just have itself put together with a cast or some-such, like people do. Apparently not. So I try not to, but I worry about our natural obstacles that are already here and wouldn't put down additional booby traps in the interest of creating paradise.
Last edited by a moderator:
Oh don't misunderstand. I watch my horses haring about, racing at top speed leaping over or dodging around things and I often hold my breath. Not one of them has ever been hurt, I do believe it is good for their mental well being but I know that it could lead to injury if one of them has a careless moment. I guess I can accept it because I know if it were me and someone said I must live in a padded room because I might trip down a flight of stairs (or more likely up knowing me) or twist an ankle on rough ground (not a stretch for me believe me) I would rather take a chance than be safe but bored to the point of insanity. I don't judge you tho an not dragging rocks and logs into a perfectly clean pasture, I wouldn't either, but since my pastures are naturally made this way and won't ever be a golf course, I am happy to know the horses benefit from the variety and they do have some pastures and pens that are flat and unobstructed too so they get some of both.
No golf course pastures here. Probably the worst trip hazard to horses here are the various tunneling creatures. And we expended a ridiculous amount of energy and funds trying to get rid of them. I finally drew the line when the husband and friends were doing something out there with liquid oxygen and rocket motors; the explosions were deafening and were not having any permanent effect on the moles/voles/gophers. Now I just try to tamp down the holes and then drive something heavy over them (like the husband's truck) to smush them down. ...that helps a bit.

I do have a pile of lodgepole pine logs and other (primarily wooden) obstacles behind the garage. I pitch them over the fence and take Baby for a walk through them, but only on halter so she can't run. I do this as practice to, well to, uhhh, heck I don't know why I do that. I guess 'cause I read it on the internet.

I also have walked her (on halter) across tarps and other things. She does really well. Baby walking on the bubble wrap, with it popping was really funny, not to mention it didn't phase her a bit. But I don't leave any of that out there for them to run across. When they run, they go all out, and I just don't have it in me to watch them go heck-bent across litter I toss out there. There's enough natural disasters waiting to snap a leg.
I would not personally bother with this system. To me it is just a lot of unneccessary expense and work to set it up. My horses wander as they please from sheds to hay bales to water tank. When we get a new snow & I see the tracks the horses make, I can see that they are moving around plenty--it actually surprises me how much they wander around the pastures in winter when there is nothing out there for them. In summer, of course, I know they are wandering around out there looking for the choicest morsels of grass. I see no need to set up tracks for them to move around on.
Such a system wouldn't be needed if you are set up so that the horses are pretty much free to roam pastures; it's a concept for those who have enough space, but for any number of reasons, cannot/do not want to, allow the horses to freely roam the entire area most/all of the time!
I agree with Margo. Those of us fortunate enough to be able to offer very large pastures for the horses to roam around really don't need to stress about giving them a reason to move but if you have only a few acres a track can offer an enrichment to the days of horses who are not worked with on a daily basis.
I like hearing the different perspectives. In reading the book, one observation made is that having too big of a pasture actually can restrict movement as much as too small of a paddock. It all depends on how it is set up, and if the horses have need to move from one area to the other. It's also nice to set it up to restrict access to too much pasture and grass. When I move this summer, I plan to incorporate the system whether I have 2 acres or 200 acres. Not saying its the only good way to do things, just saying that my limited experience with it has been so positive - that this is the way I want to continue!
Last edited by a moderator:
I've never set up a "track system" per say (like the FB page or book show) BUT have actually used that concept for over 30 years. It's called having water at one end of a paddock, hay in several others, the feeders set up in a different area or in the barn completely separate from the pasture/paddocks and salt/loose minerals far away from the water source. The horses will move from one area to the next even in a small paddock - quite a bit - thruout the day just to drink, gather salt and "graze".

I've set up obstacles to work my ponies over while training - trot/canter poles, jumps, barrels to jump & weave, trees down on the ground, trees left standing in various areas rather than removed, tire groupings - all out in various pastures/paddocks. The ponies and horses we've owned often utilize all of these while galloping about - making their wind and legs stronger and their balance better - others will avoid those areas like the plague and have to be worked harder/more to get them into good shape. I can understand putting the "track" around a pasture area that some would not have regular/constant access to - novel concept - just not something I've wanted or been able to implement.

This "pasture/paddock" isn't all that large! Behind the ponies, from one end to the other is only 10 - 16' panels (160'), behind the ponies' butts to the left - along the main road - the pasture is only 6 1/2 (68') panels wide. This paddock was in an "L" shape and it sloped down to the road - a natural workout for the ponies... I want to say that at the top of the "L" at the widest point, it is 15 panels long.


This one shows the left hand corner alongside the road. The trees "mask" the "well" that was an ornament, not a working well. It was both a natural shady spot and worked for blocking rain/snow but also as an obstacle that they ran around while either running/playing for joy or when one took exception to some and madly chased the "snot" out of them... This was Oly's first day back out with ponies he'd been born with and grown up with. He was born in May 2011 and went to TX in April 2012 to be fitted/trained/shown in halter. He lived in a stall from April 2012 thru August 2013 - except when taken out to be groomed/trained/conditioned. Oly is a 2yr old stallion - the others are geldings. Sami, Comet and Rocket are 1/2 shetlands.


The "track" concept, imo, is set up the way a natural habitat would be for wild horses or for horses on large ranches on open range land. Those animals move all day long and sometimes thruout the nite - grazing, running/playing (yep even the mature horses often gallop about!!), going to water, finding natural salt licks. When I was growing up in CO - most ranchers utilized the concept that pastures and even smaller "paddocks" were set up to keep/make the horses move - to build wind, strengthen legs, develop muscle and to balance out weights (neither too thin nor to heavy). I grew up not only utilizing such myself BUT also reading how it was implemented and is still used by larger horse breeders (several Arab breeders on the west coast use this all the time - water set up at the top of a hill and hay set down below somewhere) - QH, Arab, Morgan, Paint, TB etc... Yes, sometimes the larger ranches/breeders would lose a horse - to natural predators that either the humans hadn't trapped/shot or that showed up and chased (usually didn't catch) the horses (full size), or to getting caught in a "bog"/or quick sand (lot of that on the Platte River in CO! I was caught in some while riding and ponying horses a couple of times - UGLY), snakes or "not keeping their heads" while traversing rocky areas (broken legs leading to death due not to being able to get t water/hay etc). There was a reason cowboys, even those working on horse breeding operations - not just cattle or sheep, "rode fence". It was to keep daily/weekly/monthly monitoring of the horses in the various pastures and to check the condition their weights were at!! Breeders sometimes found that certain lines simply didn't make it out in the open - and those lines were culled both by the rancher/manager themselves or by mother nature. The remaining horses that "bred on" were the better for the "natural selection" and culling.
Last edited by a moderator:
Here are pictures of some of the obstacles that Vicki and I have had on our properties. Some are permanent (the water feature) and some are quite movable - though that is some serious time/work to do so.

These are set up in the round pen/arena and in pastures that ponies live in. They do often navigate them on their own while going about their daily business and playing - not just when we were training or working them.




Vicki called me one day and said that my pony and one of hers were standing IN the water - nose to tail flicking flies in the 100* weather. Can only imagine that they were "cooling off" their hoofers... That water is not naturally cleaning/draining and it does get NASTY!

Here is the newly re-dug drainage ditch that is part of our pasture. This is a "wild" pony - none of our pasture fences will hold her so she stays in a round pen type heavy duty pen...
. This is one of the days that our daughter had her out and was leading her about after a rain storm that dumped 2" of water on us...


Also - In talking to owners, breeders and vets here in NC - the smaller an enclosure, pen, pasture or stall - the more prone to accidents a pony or horse will be. Doesn't seem to matter the breed or what the fencing/walls are constructed of. Also doesn't always matter if the horse is stalled or pastured alone or with 1 or more others.

I've seen some of the worst injuries with diamond mesh HORSE fencing and beautiful wood fencing when I've been told that the worst will always be with hi-tensile wire and barbed wire. My own experiences have pointed out that ours get injured at gates (rubbing and playing while bored) and in wooden stalls (leg & head injuries - two very serious - life threatening). I have had four major pasture injuries - two involving eyes, two involving slipping and going down - one on slick grass (yearling arab injured both stifles - took several years to properly heal. Now a winning barrel racing horse competing against QH in Oklahoma) and one on a sand/clay open area (severely pulling muscles in forearm & chest - required anit-inflamatories to reduce swelling and lots of chiro/massage to bring about full recovery). One eye injury was when a freshly bush-hogged pasture (between 3 & 5 acres) had our 2 week old 1/2 arab/hackney pony filly lay down. She poked her eye - affecting the cornea. I was out there and saw her lay down (the ponies were on leased pasture 8 miles from our home) and then bounce right back up shaking her head... She had "field" surgery w/i an hour or so of the injury and 3 surgeries later we saved her eye. As a mature pony, a vet didn't pass her on a vet exam for a pony club purchaser due to a small blue spot in her black eye - but she jumped 3'6" courses on a regular basis; has been ridden and shown western, huntseat & dressage; has raised 3 foals herself for us (Comet & Rocket are her two sons by our shetland stallion) and is now in SC as a hunter pony actually part of a hunt club that really does x-country jumping - solid fences and creeks ranging from 2.5' to 4.5' in height and up to 5' in spread. The 2nd injury was either before or during a storm in April 2011 that caused several tornadoes in our area (but not over us - just very windy). The vet thinks he ran into a tree or a flying branch hit him. Lots of small "holes"/pinpricks in his left eye. Eventually all the fluid has drained out of the eye and the eyeball is now "flat". We have not had it removed. For the first two years, at least, he had eyesight - though limited. We did a lot of work with him during that time frame - he will cross obstacles and go thru water. He lounges on a lounge line (and stays out away from the ground handler) and you can point at a trailer and say "load up" and he'll hop right in. Now he has no eyesight in that eye and he does turn his head so he can see from his right eye. He is going to be started under saddle and in harness this spring/summer and I don't anticipate any problems. He is a B sized double registered ASPC/AMHR gelding and was 11 months old when the injury happened and is going to be 5 yrs old in May. He is behind Cupid in the "pack" in the running/jumping paddock pic - running right along with the other boys almost 3 yrs after his injury!
Last edited by a moderator:

Latest posts