Tracks and Dry Lots...persil grass affected!

How to ‘Get it Right for the Horse’

We would like to encourage the ethic where, instead of always trying to ‘get the horse right’, we focus on ‘getting it right for the horse’!
Such a ‘mental shift’ would certainly benefit a lot of horses
With all the issues horses have these days, there is really absolutely nothing wrong with the horses but everything wrong with the way we keep them.

The point of this is to encourage people to ‘think outside the square’ in the way that they set up their properties and manage what grass they have. If you have a setup that gives you options it is easy to keep horses calm and healthy. Prevention is way better than cure!

There is nothing more soul destroying for a horse than to be confined to a small area where there is nothing, no choices of where to hang out, nothing to scratch on and no other equine to interact with.

For some people, because their property lends itself to these suggestions, it is going to cost virtually nothing, but others may need to invest some resources if their land isn’t free draining. You could think of it as an investment in your horse’s health and wellbeing as well as your peace of mind and safety. In the long run you are likely to save colossal amounts of money otherwise spent on various treatments and veterinary expenses.


The Track System

One option is to create a TRACK SYSTEM

The track at MiniHaHa Rescue Haven in North Canterbury is ideal. It is large enough to encorouge movement and have quite a herd living on it. As you see here these previously laminitic ponies are now moving freely and happily.

Tracks are wonderful and work well if you live on well drained country in a dry climate. If your land is not free draining, tracks are not always the best option as they can quickly become slippery and muddy. Here are some pros and cons:


· Gives the horses choices of shelter and shade

· You have more control over access to grass

· They are a good utilization of parts of your property that don’t grow grass very well anyway

· The area left in the middle can be left as one big area for growing hay/riding/letting the horses out for access to grass

· You only need one water trough and the inside fence can be a temporary one at first to see how it works out

· You can establish a variety of substrates – some sections of the track can be stony (round stones), and even a water crossing where possible – all very good for their hooves

· There are opportunities for enrichment – you can bring in a log or two for them to hop over, or a boulder or two to scratch on – they love this not just as a scratching place but also because it has created a ‘somewhere’ for them to hang out.

· It is a great way to keep horses in a herd and they can potentially all be exercised at once by keeping them moving around the track for a good workout. (either with you on a horse or on a push bike!)


· A Track is really a very elongated paddock and it becomes overgrazed very quickly depending on the number of horses living on it. The more horses, the more it gets trashed and then compaction of the soil can interfere with drainage

· If you do want to keep the track grass-free it takes considerable effort as the grass keeps growing back - especially where you have a fed out the hay

· It is very expensive and not generally practical to make an all-weather track

If you are going to make a track:

· It is better not to be the same width all the way around – you need larger areas where, if the horses get spooked, they have somewhere to group and settle (bolt holes)

· Horses need somewhere soft and safe to have a lie-down and a roll, large enough they are not going to end up rolling into the fence

· Fences need to be ‘horse-friendly’ as the horses are confined between them in a relatively narrow space. Avoid sheep netting and high tensile wire!

· Incorporate options of shade and shelter

· You need several hay stations around the track or the horses end up hanging around in one spot. Place the water trough to maximize movement

If your property is not free draining there are other options which will be coming up soon

Here is a great link for anyone thinking about putting in a track system


The Dry Lot

A Dry Lot is an area that is totally Grass Free.

Dry Lots don’t have to be boring little squares. Make strips that incorporate choices for the horse. Include options of trees or sheds for shade and shelter and very importantly, maximize movement. Of course you can also exercise a calm healthy horse by riding him, which you cannot do a Grass Affected or laminitic horse. Think up ways of enriching your horse’s environment if he cannot be out in the paddock 24/7.

The following are examples of great Dry Lots...

Cathy Dee's Dry Lot is roomy enough for the horses to bounce about in. It is situated under large pine trees so the horses have shade and shelter and places to go to get away from each other. The upshot is that they love it in there!

"I made this in 2016 when Zephyr developed a sudden onset of mild laminitis. Fortunately I caught it very early and brought him home with the others to this area, which at that time I simply fenced off with tape and standards.

Realising what a great area it is - lending itself to a Dry Lot, I had it fenced with equi-rope (above) and it has been invaluable through spring when they were in it full time and on into a summer which has presented itself with unusual bouts of rain!

I can bring them in to live in it until the grass dries off and they can go back out into the paddocks."

Andrea Erikson sent in a picture of her dry lot (Above)  - she says...

"This is my dry lot where the horses hang out during the day with hay nets.They have a ball, a tarpaulin, a couple of poles and a little ramp to play with and 3 Covered yards.It is crushed lime with a layer of wood chips on the top"

Thanks Andrea - great job

The CalmHealthyHorses dry lot is used temporarily to bring horses back from head flicking or laminitis. Once they are nomralised they go out onto the track. All the dry lots have shade and shelter.


The making of an All Weather Dry Lot...

Becca Smith from Taranaki kindly photographed the process of building her all weather dry lot...

  • First they scraped off the top soil and laid geotextile fabric. This can be obtained from most Earthworks companies.


  • An A40 grade stone was spread and then fines and lastly the very fine sand on top.
  • The matting keeps the soil from mixing with the stones, making it more permanent in wet areas such as Taranaki.

The whole dry lot only took a day to make!

NB If you use sand on top then make sure you place large rubber mats under the hay. You want to avoid accidental ingestion of sand.


Track Systems...

The CalmHealthyHorses track is large with water at one end, the hay station at the other. There are areas which are wider than others to allow play, rolling etc. There is shade and shelter. It is a great way to encourage movement.

Tracks can include things for the horses to walk over or through - like water and logs as seen here in Jo Kirk's North Canterbury track.