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.

Feeding Horses When on their ‘Dry Lot’ or Track

In order to maintain perfect health and well-being while on a ‘dry lot’ or a track, here are some essential points:

1. Horses require suitable hay (clover-free) 24/7 – slow feeders are a great way to achieve this. For some horses you may need to double bag the hay or swing the nets from trees in order to slow down consumption!

2. If your horse is ‘metabolic’ (cresty neck, pads of fat behind shoulders and on tail head) or obese, soak the hay for an hour prior to feeding.

3. Make sure there is clean fresh water available at all times

4. Using oaten, straw, timothy or meadow (so long as clover free) chaff as a base, mix up a simple feed every day (ideally split into two). Dampen it and add their salt with Premium MVA (in order to ensure they are getting the appropriate nutrition including their selenium and protein requirements). 
Using a high spec mineral mix is really important as a lot of economy mixes don’t contain any or sufficient Vitamin E or amino acids which are necessary for times when there is no green grass in the diet. Remember our domestic horses cannot roam and forage or graze the variety of vegetation that they normally would.

5. Add crushed linseed for taste and to supply omega 3 fatty acids. Flaxseed oil is good as are the oils that contain 3’s 6’s and 9’s. Vegetable oils like rice-bran and soya-bean contain larger proportions of Omega 6’s and need to be balanced up with oils rich in omega 3’s such as flaxseed.

6. We find copra is good for taste too, we feed the minimal amount that ensures they eat what we need them to eat. Some horses don’t need it, they are happy with crushed linseed for taste

7. In this hot, humid weather keep all feeds in the coolest place possible, oils should be refrigerated where possible.

8. Beet is an option too, it requires more time to soak up the water. Some horses are fine eating their minerals in chaff/beet others need something more tasty.

9. Protein: horses need a small amount of quality protein, this is why we made Premium MVA - it contains Minerals, Vitamins and Amino Acids (the building blocks of protein) which takes care of this for you. Some horses will benefit from the addition of ShapeUp which is pure amino acids with a pre-biotic, this will really bulk them up over several months, then the MVA will keep them that way.

EXAMPLE: We feed our horses oaten chaff, copra, crushed linseed, salt, Premium MVA and XtraCal.
Beet is another option, or, if the horse is in hard work, whole oats or crushed barley can be added.
If you are feeding copra, pollard, bran or any grains long term, make sure you include XtraCal to balance the low calcium of these feeds. Beet is the opposite, it is higher in calcium and lower in phosphorous so it is always a good idea to feed with a higher phosphorus feed such as copra, pollard, bran or grain.

PIC: Basil is a classic case of a pony who, although in a dry lot due to laminitis, on plenty of hay, was not being fed the right minerals (and not enough salt) for his needs. (First pic)
Look at him now – still in dry lot on hay but with the addition of Premium MVA, XtraCal (because he is young and still growing) and salt. Initially Basil was also on ShapeUp to give him the nutritional boost he so clearly needed.

More pics of horses enjoying their Dry Lots - they do't have to be boring!

Horses need room to move and make ‘choices’ of a day. They need options of shade and shelter they can choose to use or not. These are essential for both their physical health and their mental well-being.
The key is to ‘think outside the square’!

Brooke Page's ponies love the roomy shady dry lot...


Use all the ‘spare’ areas of your property, in front of trees, behind sheds, think ‘strip’ rather than ‘square’. Include big trees if you have them, (pine plantations are ideal) if not, devise a way to offer shade – a ‘sail’ or a shed.

Your strip may turn into an extensive track if your substrate is well draining. If it is not well draining, you are better off to make a shorter, but still roomy area 'all weather'.

Emphasis needs to be on safety especially when there is more than one horse. Round off all the corners and make sure there are no ‘dead ends’ where any horses might get trapped. Consider also that they need room to turn around and go the other way. ‘Bulb’ the ends out so they can safely come to a stop if they are running or playing.

Remove all hazards such as low or jagged branches, gate gudgeons etc, but 'enrich', when and where you can, eg: incorporate a soft area for rolling or lying down (bark or river sand – whatever you can get), round stones around water troughs which are great for their hooves or you can bring in large rocks or smooth logs (great for having a good scratch) (See photo of the rocks on our track)

Having such an area is a real asset as it enables you to allow your grass areas to grow and mature to the stage that they are more suitable for grazing whilst giving your horse the life he deserves.

Cathy's horses also have a lot of fun in their dry lot...

The challenge is to keep your ‘dry lot’ grass free. This is a lot easier if it somewhere where the grass cannot grow. Covering the area up is far more economical and easier in the long run than having to continually worry about the grass shoots coming through the dirt. What you cover it with will depend on what is available locally and the nature of your substrate

The girls hang out by the scratching stones on the CalmHealthyHorses track.