Saturday November the 12th saw a bus load of enthusiastic horse property managers tour the SJ Region learning about paddock rotation systems. A track system allows your horses to move freely around your paddocks while restricting time on your grass. This allows the grass to rest between grazing periods decreasing negative impacts. There are both physical and mental benefits for horses that live in a herd situation track system. Last in the series of five on-ground field days this event looked at how to sustainably manage you horses grazing by rotating them using track systems. This event was part of the Equine Landcare Project funded through the State Natural Resources Management Program Community Capacity Grant – with support from the Peel Harvey Catchment Council through the National Landcare Programme.
Participants visited four properties on the day. Property number one had set up a track system based on both the paddocks paradise and the Equicentral system. The Equicentral system works with a central laneway with one watering point, while the paddocks paradise system was developed using an outside track with separate watering and feeding points that encourage horses to walk throughout the day. There was an outside track running around the back four acres of this property surrounding five separate paddocks. The system had only one water trough at the stabling area meaning the horses must travel from either the hay roll at the back of the property or whichever paddock is open that day to drink. This encourages movement and reduces the time spent on the pasture. The property owner had reported almost instant reduction in feed bills, a settling in the horse’s behaviour and the development and retaining of muscle. Not only does the track system allow for horse movement but also provides a fire break as well as an exercise track for riding.
The second property on twelve acres was set up using the paddocks paradise system as a model. The property owners said “At Quahlee we are in the infancy stages of the Paddocks Paradise system for our paddock rotation. Only about 1/3 of our track is currently operational, so we also rotate the paddocks. I run my horses in a herd, and noticed immediately the difference in the horses behaviour when the track was first opened. The horses engaged more happily with one another, played and moved a lot more of their own accord. They seem to enjoy exploring the track and move from one end to the other frequently, not just from drinking to eating stations. Despite the fact that they are walking more, my senior (22yo) horse has actually put on weight and joint stiffness is much less noticeable. Having a track system really seems to engage the horses in decision making, problem solving and play. They all seem healthier, happier and more mentally stimulated.”
The third property was also based on the paddocks paradise system but was based on a smaller five acre block. This property showed great use of space – feeling a lot bigger than it was with a track system surrounding green paddock options. Properties using track systems are based on controlled access to pasture preventing horses from overgrazing paddocks. This leads to a decrease in irrigation and fertiliser to keep the pasture healthy. Paddocks or areas that historically hard to grow pasture in can be used in the track system or as riding areas with the better pastured areas being kept aside for grazing. For example the owner of this property lets her horses in to keep the lawn down, not only does the lawn grow well after a grazing session but being the best grass on the property the horses certainly enjoy it as well! This is what the property owner had to say about her experiences using a track system “Living on just 5 acres with horses I can’t imagine being able to have good paddocks without having a track system. It allows the horses to have their netted hay 24/7 off the paddocks so the grass can have time to rest and grow. It also allows the horses to hoon around at full gallop on a track while they play and exercise themselves. I know they love living as a herd as they groom each other, race each other and lay next to each other. Best of all my property isn’t a dust bowl full of weeds!”
Participants were also able to tour the Oakford RDA centre as the last property on the tour. Belinda used this site to talk about how to set up a track system and what to think about when looking at your property. What are the strength and weaknesses of your property and how can use you use it most efficiently.
The whole event was supported by the experience and knowledge of Belinda Taylor from Hoof Hearted Hoof Care – Questions ranged from weed identification to questions on pasture growth, when to have the horses in the paddocks and when to take them off. One principle brought up by Belinda at a previous field day was the change from being horse farmers to grass farmers when horse property owners start looking at ways to improve their pasture. Most owners will know that horses have a heavy impact on pasture not only do they selectively graze leaving you with short sandy areas and deep lush grass all in the one paddock, they dig holes to roll in even though you have provided areas just for this, and they love going for a leisurely gallops on your precious grass. Track systems can give property owners the best of both worlds, a lane way system that allows horses to stay in groups and move constantly, with controllable access to grass that allows for good pasture management
The final Equine Landcare Event will be held in Pinjarra on the 9th December. This event will be hosted in partnership with the Peel-Harvey Catchment Council. The event will have information on all facets of sustainable horse property management- including pasture management and rotation systems if you missed out on the bus tour. The Shire of Murray are on board to give information on the Shire’s policy on the keeping of horses as well as providing a take home booklet on horse management. The all-day event will run from 9am with morning tea and lunch provided. You can register your place by emailing Teele@Landcaresj.com.au.
This project is supported by; Landcare SJ through funding from the Western Australian Government’s State NRM
Program, and the Peel Harvey Catchment Council through funding from the Federal Government’s National