Horses are gregarious, social animals that live and travel in herds, and whose natural habitat provides a level of mental and physical stimulation that is hard to replicate within the confines of a typical rectangular paddock. To regain some of that natural enrichment, consider building your herd a Paddock Paradise.
Paddock Paradise is an alternative to traditional rectangular paddocks that promotes the natural lifestyle of horses by giving them a space to graze as well as a semi-structured area to roam and play outside of the grass. A paddock paradise can be as simple as a narrow strip around your existing paddocks or it can be as complex as a path that travels around your property.
The idea is that the path you build protects your grazing space, contains various enrichment spaces as well as hay and water, and will promote more movement and keep your horse more mentally and physically active.
The track can vary in shape and size to fit your property, and your horse’s needs but is not necessarily suitable for every property or herd, so check out the pros and cons to determine if a paddock paradise is right for you.
- Paddock paradise promotes exercise in your horses as it is a track that encourages your horses to constantly move and graze
- Can help prevent stereotypies (weaving, cribbing) from occurring *will not completely stop stereotypies
- Enrichment areas keep horses busy and leave little room for boredom
- Can prevent illnesses and disorders such as laminitis that are more common in horses who are confined to smaller paddocks or stalls
- Restricted access to the grass paddock keeps the grass healthy all year long and prevents overgrazing
- Paddock paradise can also improve a horse’s body condition score and improve their overall health and lifestyle
- Spacing is a big consideration
- What is already built on your property – are you willing to tear down and rebuild?
- Type of land – it may be harder to create a paddock paradise where there is lower-lying and marshy land
- Maintenance of the track
- Ability or lack thereof to split horses up
- Visual checks on the herd are easier in a regular paddock
- Cost of installation and maintenance of the second set of fencing
Paddock Paradise Design
Now that you have gone through the advantages and disadvantages of a paddock paradise, it’s time to consider how to make it happen and what features to include. The size and path of paradise need to be determined.
Are you adding fencing to the exterior of a current paddock or are you creating a whole new system from scratch? Will the fencing be temporary or will it be permanent? These answers will help you decide which fencing option to go with.
Sizing considerations are a large part of creating a paddock paradise. Not only do you need grazing land, you will also want to make sure the width of the path is appropriate (approximately 2 horses wide, or wide enough for your tractor!).
All together you’ll want 1-2 acres per horse, so there is a fair amount of flexibility, especially if you are building from scratch. It’s common for the track to go around your paddock as in the diagram, but one can always get creative and have it go around the whole property!
What features you want to include depends on your horses and their needs. Some are obvious necessities, and some will be additions that the horses will enjoy. Because part of the idea is to save your grass, all of the following should be on the path outside of the grass.
- Salt or mineral block
- Natural enrichment such as logs and rocks
- A gravel portion
- A water feature
- A sand pit for rolling
Paddock paradise is entirely customizable. If you have trees to block wind and rain, man made shelters may not be needed. If your horses come in at night, you may want to make the roaming path smaller for easier catching. If they are outside 24/7, you may want to make sure there is more than one paddock, or have a shelter and waterer inside one of the grazing paddocks, in the case that a horse needs to be separated from the herd for one reason or another.
Feed and water
Creating food stations where horses can get hay when they do not have access to grass will encourage exercise. We recommend using Hay OptiMizers, which hold 2 small bales, for slow feeding efficiency. You also want to make sure that water is easily accessible from anywhere in the paddock. We have several outdoor, low maintenance watering options. If you feed grain to your outdoor horses that is another station to consider. Buckets that hang on the fence are a great option if you have wood fencing; otherwise it could be as simple as tying a feeder pan to the bottom of a fence post.
If your property sees a lot of mud or is in a low lying area you will want to make sure there is a proper soil system in place along the track in areas that need the extra support. At System we carry two different mud grids, both of which are great options for managing mud and water within your paddock. Paddock Slabs require more ground preparation than the Mud Control Grids, which can more or less just be placed on the ground, but are a more stable and longer lasting solution. Either way, adding soil stabilizers to the areas around gates, shelters, waterers, and feeding areas will be safer for your property and your horses – not to mention your boots!
This comes into play for the size of paddock paradise you build, the type of fencing you choose, and the features that you build into it. What do you have to bring onto your property (E.g. dirt, sand, rocks, shelters, etc.)? How many muddy areas will require soil stabilization? Will you need to add waterers? Also consider the maintenance of the paddock paradise as a whole. All types of fence require annual upkeep and occasional replacement of parts, although the 2021 lumber market means that building a wood fence or replacing a board is likely to be very pricey!
Type of fencing
What fencing option to choose? At System we have a variety of different options to choose from. When choosing a fencing system you want one that is safe, durable, affordable, looks great, and is low maintenance. All the fencing options that are suitable for horses are listed below.
Flex fencing is a great option to choose as it requires very little maintenance. The safety factors make this a very popular choice, as horses have a hard time injuring themselves on it.
Flex fencing will bend and flex from strain that can come from horses running into it, sitting on it, and trees falling, and will go back to shape once the pressure is relieved. Flex fencing is the most visual barrier, and is very easy for both you and your horses to see.
Horses will also not chew or crib on flex fencing, which may be an advantage depending on your horse. Flex fencing does not provide a psychological barrier and it is flexible, which gives horses the ability to push the panels and stick their head through and graze on the other side.
Electric fencing is a great economical option for your horses who like to push their boundaries. Electric fencing can come in the form of electric strand fencing and electric tape fencing. Tape fencing provides the benefits of electric fencing as well as the visual look of panels. Electric fences are generally terrible visual barriers unless you are opting for 4” tape.
Electric fences do come with maintaining the electrical components. Electric fencing can be installed as temporary fencing to create a paradise paddock around your current paddocks, or it can be installed as permanent fencing.
An electric rope on the inside of flex or wood fencing is a common way to discourage horses from leaning on those panels, which is a great way to make sure your fencing stays in tip top shape!
Wire Mesh Fencing
Wire mesh fencing is great for keeping livestock in and keeping predators out. Just like Flex fencing, wire mesh fencing will bend and move with added pressure, and then return back to shape once the pressure is removed.
We have many different wire mesh options to fit your specific needs. This is a great option for keeping your foals and minis in and keeping those pesky dogs out.
This fencing option will allow you to sleep peacefully at night knowing that your animals are not going anywhere and are protected from any predators. All wire is galvanized to protect against corrosion and severe weather conditions, which in return makes this a very low maintenance option.
It is an extremely safe option when combined with a sightline to provide a visual barrier. The visual barrier could include a line of hardwood, Flex, or tape along the top. This option is also more costly than others, but the low maintenance will make up for that over time.
There is also traditional hardwood fencing. This fencing is a great option for high-traffic areas as it is strong, very visible, and long-lasting. Hardwood fencing will give your farm the classic visual appeal while keeping your horses contained.
This may not be the most ideal option for all fencing for a paddock paradise as it is quite costly and requires the most maintenance, however, one may choose to do some parts, such as around the grass, or the entire exterior fence, with hardwood.
While hardwood fencing will not go anywhere, there is a higher risk for injuries as they are solid rails that break on severe impact if a horse runs into them and has no give if a horse gets stuck. Wood is also very palatable, so horses love to chew on it, and may cause more maintenance issues in the long run.
If you are strictly looking at doing a paddock paradise in an economical fashion, electric rope or braid or Shockline with no visual barriers would save the most money. However where safety and visual appeal are concerned, combining Flex as the topline with 3 strands of electric braid or rope, Shockline, or tape may be the best answer.
We suggest incorporating electric fencing into any decision you make to prevent crowding that can occur in the narrow lanes of a paddock paradise, as well as to avoid horses testing the fencing when they feel overcrowded.
The great part of fencing is that there are so many different options and styles that you can choose to make your dream paddock come true.