Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Book review: Paddock Paradise

The main concept in Paddock Paradise, by Jamie Jackson, is that horses in the wild lead a very different life than their domesticated counterparts. In the wild, they are constantly moving, searching for food, water, and minerals, and evading danger. They don't move randomly but have regular "tracks" that they stay on, bunched together for safety. This lifestyle promotes healthy, rock-hard hooves, glossy coats, and virtually no opportunity for laminitis, founder, colic, or other common ailments of stabled horses.

Jackson recommends recreating this track concept for optimal domestic horse and hoof health. He suggests fencing off the perimeter of the property and a few larger areas, then adding features like ponds, sand rolls, rocks, pea gravel, mineral licks, and shelters, to keep horses moving constantly and exploring their surroundings. Feed (primarily forage) is spaced out over the entire length of the track, further encouraging movement and slower, more natural eating habits. The track concept can accommodate any size property - the example that Jackson gave was for a 20 acre property, but the last chapter in the book showed a track that went around a 4 acre property.

The book is a very quick read - it took me about two hours to go through it from cover to cover. While the information about how wild horses spend their time is useful and the ideas on how to recreate their lifestyle is interesting, it's unfortunately not going to be very practical for most horse owners, especially those in a boarding situation. I wouldn't recommend purchasing the book, primarily because you can find the information that's provided in the book by doing a quick Google search and reading up on it. In fact, here are a couple of good sites I found:

Having said all that, we need a way for our horses to get more exercise, eat less grass, and wear their feet more naturally, so we are working on a plan for a track system around our property. It will probably take us some time to figure out the details and actually get it built, but I'll keep you up-to-date on how it's going!

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