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Paddock Design to Keep Your Horse Comfortable & Safe

paddockHow we stable/pasture our stock is a  large percentage of our investment in our  animals and can have a dramatic effect on  their health and performance.

Paddock design is a special area of  interest because we manufacture fence  panels and feeder equipment, which has  provided the opportunity to evaluate many  conventional and some very unique equine  properties.  In the present era of humanity we have  become so specialized in areas of life styles  that sometimes we miss the “big picture”.

I  have chosen to write about what my father  taught me about taking care of horses more  than a half a century ago. (My, how time  flies when we are having fun.) His and his  father’s philosophy was very simple – for a  horse to be comfortable (key word) it needs  to have adequate food, plenty of water,  and needs to be able to “get out of the wind  and stay dry”.

First, I will assume that you are feeding  acceptable amounts of quality  roughages, grain if you choose to, and free  choice salt/mineral supplements. I recommend  a separate feeding station for each of  these parts of the total ration. The salt/mineral  is best kept in non-metallic containers. I  try to childproof these containers because  your stock will have a tendency to tip them  over wasting valuable product. Avoid putting  large amounts out that will also be exposed  to the weather elements, thereby reducing  the quality.  Feeding hay is changing about as fast  as the weather changes this time of the  year. I don’t expect hay prices to go down,  not that it was ever cheap enough to waste.  The only good thing about feeding hay on  the ground is that it is the natural grazing  position for the animal. There are some  good hay feeders on the market that will  allow your horse to feed in a natural grazing  position and minimize the loss of valuable  roughages. I recommend multiple feeding  stations if you have more than two horses in  a paddock. This can be accomplished, even  in situations with very limited space, and  provide for a comfortable and healthy paddock.

Second is your water, which in many  cases is overlooked and the most misunderstood  food source. I highly recommend having  your water tested periodically to be sure  it is safe for your animals. What you test for  may vary depending upon your geographic  location. Contact your local vet, university,  feed store, farm service agency, well drilling  company and other animal owners in your  area to determine if there might be concerns  about your water quality and/or history of  any quality problems in your immediate  area. Where you position your animals  water supply can have either a positive or  negative affect on your paddock flow. In an  ideal scenario the watering location would be  away from the feeding stations or housing to  minimize husbandry issues and encourage  traveling (exercise) for you animals.

And finally, we will discuss how to get our animals  “out of the wind and keeping them dry”. Personally  we avoid keeping our animals stalled, they  stay out unless they require special attention  such as a mare foaling during inclement  weather or an injury that might require minimal  movement. Even the new additions to  the herd are placed in adjoining paddocks,  having adequate accommodations. A horse  that needs to be isolated for a period of time  may be placed in a round pen that has some  wind protection also. We utilize a combination  of three sided shelters for housing,  which are used by the horses a minimal  amount of the time. If the horses aren’t  feeding, drinking, or playing, most of their  time is spent near wind breaks depending  upon the time of the year. Berms are large  mounds of dirt, built up in paddocks, that  animals can use to shelter themselves from  the winds and/or insects. A berm would be considered a  luxury if you have the room in a paddock. I  feel that corner wind shelters provide adequate  wind protection plus they can help as  a sound barrier, provide solid visual fencing  for corners, and aid in giving your animals a  location to deposit their manure, making  paddock cleaning easier and thereby reducing  fly and pest challenges. The construction  and design of corner wind protection  varies from region to region and depends  upon components available in your area.

These are ideas that have worked well  for our operation. The type of horse you are  raising, the soil type, the number of animal  units, and other factors that are too numerous  to mention, need to be considered when  designing a new complex or redesigning an  existing one. A good place to start would be  at the environmental service office in your  area. Learn and understand what the guidelines  are for your location and than you can  make good decisions in designing a new or  existing paddock.

May your equine partner fulfill the balance  that we are seeking in life so we can  keep our priorities in line; God, Family,  Friends, and Animals!


Jim Kotschevar is the co-owner with his brother  Mike of Service Equipment,  manufacturers  and distributors of Arena Fenceline products since  1992. Jim’s other experiences extend to raising  horses and elk with his wife and family near  Paynesville, MN to consulting in areas of risk  management programs and facility design and  management. Jim can be contacted at  320-250-3222.

[Written by Jim Kotschevar & published in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 1, Issue 4.]

Do you have advice or personal experience safely keeping several horses in a single paddock? If so, please comment below.

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