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5 Tips to make track life easier

Updated: Feb 28, 2023

1. HAY, HAY and more HAY


Dedicate one day to filling up all of your hay stations. Safe hay should be the staple part of our horses diet. Timothy, meadow and orchard hays are popular safe choices and staying away from any ryegrasses is best.

Try to offer as much diversity as possible and making sure it is ad lib (meaning your horses will never run out).

I always fill up far too much hay than needed because it makes my life so much easier during the working week, especially now winter is here. For example, I have three horses on my track and they have five haystations. Hay station one to four contain a sharer net which holds the quanity of a small square bale, plus six to nine normal sized haynets. Haystation five only has six normal sized haynets.


Depending on the weather, I sometimes add a big round bale to feed station one - lots of rain or freezing temperatures without a doubt makes them consume additional hay. I usually spend one to two hours a week filling up everything and then daily I only have to fill up the emptys which is usually only around six small nets. The horses never run out and I don't feel like I spend my life filling up haynets.


2. POO PICKING


This can be the most time consuming job on our tracks, especially if we only have a wheelbarrow and one poo pile close to hand. How about this as food for thought though? Eliminating grass from our tracks is one of the primary goals of the track system but it always seems so difficult even for those of us with stoney tracks. There's always those pesky grass shoots creeping in around the edge right? So unless we have the time and the money for properly maintaining the edging with machinery or chemicals which could be potentially harmful to our horses and our land. Why not use our poo to suppress the grass? Which in turn cuts down our workload because we will no longer be going back and forth to the poo pile.


I promise it won't look awful the whole year. The edge of my track is now predominantly nettles even in the winter. The idea is we encourage different plant life instead of the grass.




Another note on horse poo, if you have read the book Paddock Paradise you will note that during Jaime's research he noticed two things regarding horse dung; dominance and copraphagous behaviours. Two very interesting topics that in turn should have their own blog. In brief they outline the reason for keeping some horse dung on our tracks in relation to these behaviours but it essentially means another time saving tip.




3. GROW YOUR OWN


We actually don't know what our horses need when it comes to diet, it's all a guessing game and a bit of a mindfield. There is so much misinformation out there confusing us all. Don't believe anyone if they say they know what our horses should be eating because there has been no scientific research done on the wild horse diet of the U.S Great Basin and frankly, they are our only true healthy model. So why not let our horses choose? Let's say we have eliminated the grass on our track systems and we are offering a 'safe' diet with predominotley safe hays as our staple, why can't we now offer self-selection of other herbs and plants? Horse's have lived for thousands of years without us, picking and choosing what they eat. So why do we stuff everything in a feed bucket?

So to begin with this might be time consuming but once all of your self-selction herbs are planted and established it will save you time and money. Dedicate a weekend or a couple of days to planting up a self-selection herb garden for your horses. Or, if you don't own your own land, herbs can be grown in containers.


Things to remember; there has been no definitive study of the diet of the Great Basin wild and free roaming horses. Luscious green grass is known to cause founder so be aware that living herbs and plants may do the same.



4. Busy areas and gateways


It's winter and traipsing through the mud-caked paddock is possibly the worst thing about owning a horse. Not all of us own our own land and even if we do there are laws in place to say we can't alter it wherever we want. However, did you know that most land owners will agree to hardcore or stone down around the gateways? Land owners don't want their land looking waterlogged and poached but near gateways, busy areas and water troughs it's very hard to avoid. It causes extensive damage to the ground so putting down some hard-standing in these arears before winter is a great way to help avoid a muddy mess. It makes life so much easier. The use of mats can also be used to protect the ground (and our sanity) but choose your mats wisely as some hold up better than others.


5. Mindset and Planning the week ahead


Horses are time consuming, especially if you are managing a herd on your own and like most of us we need to work and juggle home life. I sometimes find a vision board is a great way to start the week with the right mindset. Something you can look at daily that adds positivity to your life and also keeps your focus on whatever your goals may be. For example, at the moment I have two projects on the go. I am creating a pick-and-go hedgerow for my horses and creating a willow tree wind breaker to enchance more natural shelter. It helps me to write down each step to my project and envision what my end project could look like. I set myself timeframes but I also take into consideration normal life and don't get too upset if I don't achieve it all. It's just nice to slowly get through each step. We tend to be way too hard on ourselves and put way too much focus on the negatives rather than the positives. A healthy mind is everything so giving ourselves a break and allowing ourselves time to relax, to be with yourself and clear your mind. It's difficult looking after other beings that rely on you so the better you take care of yourself, the better you would probably able be to take care of your horses.

Allow one day where your horses require nothing from you because all of the work is done and you can spend that day catching up on house jobs, with friends and out doing something non-horse related. Or, let's face it most of us can't stay away so you can use this day to just watch them, watch them forage, watch them play and interact. Get ideas on how to improve their lives. Spend time grooming and doing all the nice things because often our lives are so busy we forget to slow down and stand still.







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