April, 2012. It is time I updated this page. For my original post introducing the system, see below. When I wrote the original post I had not taken the ponies barefoot. They are now barefoot as described here.
I have a small track system in a wet climate. I think the idea of a track system makes so much sense for me that I could not see myself keeping horses without it unless I had a lot of land. I have the luxury of two stables but they are (almost) always kept open. Ben likes to use one at times; Rosie, never. The terrain here, hilly, rocky and with the advantage of a group of pine trees, provides for natural variation in footing. Since I started the system I have added large haynets permanently strung between the pine trees. The shelter of the trees has limited the wastage of hay that was occurring when I had haynets tied at different places around the track. And I do not think it reduced movement to a great degree. The hedgerow from spring on provides for grazing and the ponies usually like to rest on the higher ground at the back of the paddock.
But with those large haynets came large amounts of mud to add to the mud that the front section of the track produced. So, when we had a digger here doing work on the property, we added stones and then pea-gravel to the area under the trees. We also spread pea-gravel on top of the crusher dust that was in my picadero.
The tour of the track starts here with Rosie:
The hayshed (another new addition, adjoining the stables) can just be seen on the left of the picture. Following Rosie up the hill:
she stops to graze the newly leafing hedgerow.
The rest of the photos were taken a couple of weeks earlier when we had a sunny, dry period. At the top of the track is the picadero, which I often leave open, and is the reclaimed land of my St Bridget’s Cloak experience.
All the land up this hill has worn very well. There is a covering of crusher dust which has impacted onto the rock (lots of rock!) that was underneath. When we first dug the track, a digger smoothed the rock into a workable slope for us.
Here is the picadero with its pea-gravel surface, I use it mainly for in-hand work and also sometimes for free lunging. Both Ben and Rosie have no problem trotting and cantering on this surface.
Then the track turns the corner and crosses past the back gate. Ben and Rosie often rest here, in the shelter of the hedge.
The surface here is mud and the next photos show how the track returns down the far side, narrow here to the tall pine trees where the large haynets are:
Underneath the trees is the new pea-gravel surface. It is spread widely and already has a good hollow created by Ben and Rosie rolling.
The track returns to the stable yard. This has been scraped back by the digger and more stones added in an attempt to combat the mud. The back of our paddock rises on limestone but the front section has less and the water runs down to it.
Rosie started this tour and needs to finish, investigating the shed that is attached to the stables:
November 2009: The original photos and introduction of our track system:
About a year ago I read Joe Camp’s Soul of a Horse. What stood out for me in that book was his description of his paddock paradise; a light bulb moment in fact. Because, before this I kept a horse at home during the summer but never thought I could do so all year round. I also used to wish that our acre here behind our house were bigger (still do of course) and more lush. It rises on limestone rock and there is hawthorn, hazel, an oak tree and various others which we want to keep. From further reading I did, I realised that our sparser grass, wild herbs and hedgerow are all an advantage, as are the hill, the rock, the clumps of trees, the roots, everything we have back here in fact.
So we have created a track which moves from the stableyard area, up a hill, to a wide area where I put haynets and where they like to roll, across the back, down the gentler slope on the other side to a clump of trees where there are more haynets and where they often rest, across a very muddy part of the track and back to the yard.
So water is by the stable, the stable door is left open at all times, and hay is in two corners diametrically opposite each other. The track has been scraped down mostly and crusher dust put on places, but the front section has become too muddy and will need to be scraped back. They are not the liveliest pair of ponies but they do use the track and it definitely encourages movement. During heavy winter rain I make a yard around the stable and close them into that at night, with the stable door open and an area under trees where they can lie down.
A diagram of the track (there is also a PDF of this diagram available to download):
Now, most people who have track systems seem to have barefoot horses. Little Rosie is barefoot as she is laminitic, but Ben has shoes. While I am interested in the idea of barefoot, there is no local expertise here and it feels too complicated for me right now. Ben is also perfectly happy and sound in his shoes. I am keen to have a track system as I want to keep my ponies out and moving and also save my land and it is certainly meeting that purpose.
A walk around the track (clockwise):
resting area under trees by stable with water buckets
stable and yard
the hedgerow on the left was full of wild blackberries which they loved
this is their favourite place when the sun shines: up high with plenty of room
Rosie and my shadow
narrow track across the back
round the corner to the other side
a narrow, gentle slope
this area is wider than it looks and they spend plenty of time here; it never gets too muddy because of the tree roots
we need to scrape back here to the underlying rock
back to the stable.
25th September 2010: Updated to add: you can see new photos I have put on the main page of my blog here, in preparation for removing Ben’s shoes and transitioning him to barefoot.