What is ‘Paddock Paradise’?
The concept of Paddock Paradise was first introduced in Jaime Jackson’s book “Paddock Paradise, A Guide to Natural Horse Boarding” in 2007. For many years, the author observed US feral horses in their natural habitat and studied their movements as well as the interaction with their surroundings. Over time, he noticed that free-roaming horses move about and follow familiar paths, referred to as “tracks”. Jaime sought to apply this concept to domestic horses, creating a system that would allow them to freely move along pathways within a fenced paddock, mimicking the natural movement and feeding habits of a herd. The term “Paddock Paradise” became a natural boarding concept which many believe has advantages compared to more traditional open pastures turnout. In essence, a Paddock Paradise consists of an external perimeter made up of a permanent, or fixed fence, and an internal perimeter (“inside track”), made up of a temporary, or removable fence. The internal perimeter encourages horses to move inside the track, and leads to several “entertainment” stations, including feeding, drinking areas, and shelter.
Today, Jaime’s concept has become an increasingly popular way to board and contain horses, showing many benefits to their overall mental and physical well-being.
Advantages of Paddock Paradise:
- Horses often need to be physically and mentally stimulated. A Paddock Paradise set up reduces chances of horses developing stereotypies or habits out of boredom, as they are encouraged to travel and interact with their environment.
- Promoting movement in horses has shown to improve digestion and reduce the risks of colic and other digestive problems.
- Different surfaces and varied terrains (including sand, grass, mud, rock, or gravel) will incite horses to pick up their feet and practice balance and coordination while maintaining healthy hooves.
- A Paddock Paradise is entirely customizable depending on space and budget, making this a system accessible to many horse owners.
Considerations When Building Your Paddock Paradise:
While building your own Paddock Paradise is a valuable way to improve your horse’s habits and quality of life, there are a few considerations to keep in mind in order to optimize your set up:
- Having small hay bales along the tracks will space out feeding points and help avoid having all the horses surround the same pile, diffusing tension and potential fights.
- The width of the pathway will influence how horses travel through it. The narrower the pathway, the more it will encourage horses to keep moving. However, as horses don’t like to be confined, it is important to make sure that the pathway is not too narrow (minimum 10-15 ft), providing an escape for horses in case tension arises within the herd.
- Picking up manure regularly along the tracks will help keep it clean and prevent flies from gathering.
- Regular maintenance of the track will ensure horses are able to travel between different stations while limiting risk of injury (i.e. slippery, muddy areas after adverse weather events).
- The area needed for your Paddock Paradise will depend on the size of your pasture and the number of horses in the herd. As a rule of thumb, a minimum of 1-2 acres of land per horse is recommended.
A Paddock Paradise is a natural boarding system that is relatively easy to implement on both large and small acres properties. However, spacing, terrain type, and budget may limit some of your options. Assessing the feasibility and compatibility will ultimately depend on your property type and herd needs. While it may not be always possible to do everything ‘by the book’, there are many ways to incorporate some of these benefits and lessons to create a stimulating environment for your horse.
Buy the book directly from official Paddock Paradise website: https://jaimejackson.com/products/paddock-paradise-a-guide-to-natural-horse-boarding-jaime-jackson or on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Paddock-Paradise-Guide-Natural-Boarding/dp/0965800784