Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Paddock Paradise

Is your horse constantly struggling with laminitis or navicular? Does your horse's boredom lead to behavioral problems, including weaving, cribbing, chewing, or aggression? Would you like to make a better, more natural use of your property for your horse? If so, you might want to try out the theories suggested in Jaime Jackson's Paddock Paradise: A Guide to Natural Horse Boarding.

Jackson is an expert in researching the environment and behavior of feral horses, and quickly realized that the hoof problems domesticated horses battle are absent for feral horses. In 1992 he published a book entitled The Natural Horse: Lessons From the Wild. In the book he describes his wild horse studies and his own suggestions of how we can more naturally meet the needs of our horses. He later described his hoof care methods in Horse Owner's Guide to Natural Hoof Care; based on his studies, he discouraged the use of shoes and promoted the wild horse trim.

Jackson's goal behind Paddock Paradise is to teach horse owners how to "provide safe, humane living conditions which use the horse's natural instincts to stimulate and facilitate movement and other behaviors that are essential to a byodynamically sound horse." In the book he explains a better method of organizing and diversifying your property for the sake of your horse. Instead of having a square pasture , where the horses nearly stand in the same place all day, he recommends creating a "track" by roping off a circular area inside the square, encouraging the horses to move and even run.

Not only should the track promote forward movement, but it should also contain a variety of surfaces and environments to stimulate your horse. Most horse owners think that if they have a bit of shade and a big enough pasture, their horse will be happy. Jackson instructs horse owners to provide a wide variety of stimuli including various water holes and small strategically placed feeding spots, which both appeal to a horse's natural foraging mentality. Ground surfaces such as a creek, rocks, mud, and gravel are all beneficial for hoof health.

Paddock Paradise and Jackson's suggestions introduce a new strain of thought for many horse owners. Instead of asking, "How can my property accommodate and feed a horse in the easiest and most convenient way?" Jackson helps us to realize that our horses come with certain behaviors and impulses that if ignored, can and will affect their mental and physical health. If you want to understand your horse's inner wiring, pick up a copy.

To discuss this topic with other horse owners, click here.

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