Paddocks, runs, sacrifice areas–you name it–provides horses with exercise and socialization while preventing your pastures from becoming overgrazed.
Construct safe, aesthetic, and eco-friendly confinement areas on your horse property
The confinement area, perhaps better known as a sacrifice area, has become a cornerstone of modern horse-keeping. It’s crucial for housing horses with metabolic concerns and preventing easy keepers from becoming obese on pasture. It’s also a necessity for horse owners with limited land. Further, this area gives pastures a break from continuous grazing, which can quickly turn lush fields into muddy, dusty, and weed-filled swaths of land. Fortunately, when it comes to designing and setting up a confinement area, innovations abound to help keep it from becoming a muddy, smelly equine prison.
Kelly Munro recently purchased Grateful Pine Farm, a 17-acre commercial horse property in Snohomish, Washington, that’s home to 30-plus horses. Munro, a dressage and trail rider and Norwegian Fjord breeder and trainer, has owned and worked on a variety of horse properties. When she and her husband moved to Grateful Pine, it mostly consisted of overgrazed pastures, filled with weeds in the summer and mud in the winter. This scenario is “neither good for horses nor environmental health,” she says.
Munro and her husband are making what she calls “horse-centric” changes. For instance, Munro is building a unique paddock system to accommodate all the horses on her small property. “I believe that quality turnout time is one of the most important things for horses, so we want to create really healthy, enjoyable turnout spaces for each horse that are usable year-round,” she says.
The reason conservationists refer to these turnouts as sacrifice areas is because we are giving up the use of that small portion of potential grazing land to benefit our pastures. Owners most commonly confine horses to sacrifice areas during the winter and early spring—as well as in the summer before pastures become overgrazed.
Track Paddocks for Horse Health
Many confinement areas are drab, muddy, and boring locales for horses to loiter. But do they have to be this way?
For Munro, the answer is an emphatic “no.” To spruce up the paddocks at Grateful Pine, she has split each one into two parts. Come spring, she’ll seed the back half as pasture: “We will keep horses off of these grassy areas while they are getting established, as well as during winters, so the grass on the property can regrow.”
The front half will become the sacrifice area with a rain garden in the middle. Rain gardens are shallow depressions in the ground stocked with native plants that capture and hold rainwater—like a mini-pond that drains over time. They help control surface water runoff and resulting mud. In essence, Munro will be creating a small track paddock.
“I think track paddocks are the greatest innovation in confinement areas,” says Helen Jones, a horse owner and resource planner for the Kitsap Conservation District, in Poulsbo, Washington. She’s been designing farm plans for horse and livestock owners for more than nine years.
If you’re not familiar with them, track paddocks are large, long corridors that circle the perimeter of a pasture or property. Their purpose is to encourage horses to move freely and behave naturally.
Author Jaime Jackson brought attention to this new way of looking at confinement areas in his book Paddock Paradise, A Guide to Natural Horse Boarding. Jackson’s ideas draw from his observations on how the horse’s natural instincts, as exhibited in the wild, stimulate and facilitate movement, which he believes helps keep a horse physically and mentally sound. He believes track paddocks also promote fewer vices, healthier hooves, and overall improved health.
A track paddock is generally set up with permanent fencing on the outside and temporary fencing on the inside. But you can shape a track paddock any number of ways, including circling around a building or arena or weaving through a trail course. The possibilities are endless.
Mariette van den Berg, BAppSc, MSc (Equine Nutrition), RAnNutr, is a registered equine nutritionist, dressage rider, and coach who is working on her PhD in equine nutrition and foraging behavior at the University of New England, in Armidale, Australia. She is the founder of MB Equine Services, an education and research business that specializes in integrating equine nutrition, horse property design, and pasture management.
She, too, looks at designing horses’ living spaces based on their needs. To her, enrichment is the key to creating a horse-healthy confinement area of any size.
Researchers have shown that captive animals can live healthier, less stressful lives if they are able to spend time doing things they’d do normally in the wild—these are called enrichment opportunities. To determine the best strategies for spicing up your horse’s life, think about how a wild horse spends his day. “Free-ranging horses graze and browse (ingest woody plants, barks, and stems) 10 to 14 hours per day in family herds,” says van den Berg. “They also migrate significant distances to obtain water and food. Compared to this, many domesticated horses lead very restricted lives, which can have a considerable impact on their mental well-being.”
Van den Berg suggests the following examples of confinement area enrichment:
- Sensory stimulation This includes visual, auditory, tactile, and taste stimulation, such as watching or listening to other horses, being groomed, or foraging. When setting up your horses’ confinement area, consider a spot where there’s plenty of activity. Place safe objects in their paddock for them to step over or move around.
- Environment Enhance the horse’s habitat by changing it up or adding complexity, either by offering new and different grazing areas or varying the size and shape of the area. This is best done using a track paddock or rotational grazing (resting pasture areas for forage growth periodically).
- Feeding Make feeding time challenging and interesting to encourage horses to think and work for their food like they would in the wild. Incorporate slow feeders, multiple feedings, or browsing options, or consider building a contraption that requires the horse to search for his food. You might also offer different feed choices in different areas (e.g., alfalfa in one feeder and a haynet of grass hay elsewhere). Hang haynets at different locations or stations. (Note: Haynets need to be strong and tied high enough so a horse cannot get tangled, and avoid metal hooks!)
- Offering toys Horse balls, trick feeders, tires, cones, and small kiddie pools are all items the horse can manipulate in some way for investigation and exploratory play. Be sure toys do not have sharp edges or contain toxic materials.
- Socializing Horses require a social component to their lives. In fact, study results show that mutual grooming lowers a horse’s heart rate and stress levels. Consider paddock fencing where neighboring horses can see and—if they get along—groom each other.
Use these principles as guidelines, and know that enrichments don’t need to be expensive. Think outside the box and mix things up. “These examples don’t stand alone,” says van den Berg. “It’s a combination (of them) that will offer your horse a more enriched life.”
Footing is an important consideration when you’re designing confinement areas. Using some type of footing, at least in the high-traffic areas, will reduce erosion and mud formation.
Different parts of the country offer different footing options. Things to consider when choosing the best one for your property include:
- Will it be a suitable, safe surface for my horse to run, stand, and lie on?
- Can I pick manure from it easily?
- Will the footing material contaminate my compost pile?
- Will it be dusty in the dry months?
- Will it be difficult to manage in the winter?
- What is the cost and availability?
- Is it in any way toxic to horses, humans, or other animals?
In some parts of North America, hogfuel (wood chips, usually made from fir or cedar trees) is available and serves as an excellent footing. Just be sure that no toxic trees, such as black walnut, are in the mix, because even standing in such footing could be harmful to the horse. Keep in mind that wood chips—though good for odor control—can decompose quickly, especially in wet climates.
Gravel (crushed rock, no larger than 5/8-inch) works particularly well in wet climates. It’s very easy to pick manure off gravel surfaces. Just be sure to provide a soft area where horses can lie down.
Sand is a popular horse-friendly footing choice that’s available in most parts of the country. Coarse washed sand drains well and is less dusty in summer months than finer varieties. Sand is also an excellent choice in regions that experience freezes in winter, as it is easier to remove frozen manure from sandy footing than from frozen gravel. One caveat with sand is that it can cause sand colic if horses ingest it. Use feeders or sweep stall mats clear of sand before every feeding.
Use at least 3 to 6 inches of whatever type of footing you choose. Clear out as much as mud and wet material as possible before adding footing.
Consider trying a combination of footing types, such as using gravel in the high-traffic areas and hogfuel elsewhere.
Well-thought-out confinement areas can help protect your pastures, while still allowing your horses to live outside. Munro and Jones go beyond what you’d expect from the standard confinement area, enriching their horses’ experiences in innovative ways and promoting mental well-being and overall health.
Today, innovations in confinement area horse-keeping abound, and the sky’s the limit on ideas and designs. “I like to challenge horse owners to come up with something creative,” van den Berg says. “Something aesthetic, horse-safe, good for the neighborhood, and good for the environment.”
About the Author
Alayne Renée Blickle, a lifelong equestrian and reining competitor, is the creator/director of Horses for Clean Water, an award-winning, nationally acclaimed environmental education program for horse owners. Well known for her enthusiastic, down-to-earth approaches, Alayne is an educator and photojournalist who has worked with horse and livestock owners since 1990 teaching manure composting, pasture management, mud and dust control, water conservation, chemical use reduction, firewise controls and wildlife enhancement. She teaches and travels North America and writes for horse publications. Alayne and her husband raise and train their reining horses at their eco-sensitive guest ranch, Sweet Pepper Ranch, in sunny Nampa, Idaho. She also authors the Smart Horse Keeping blog.
ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 8, 2017)–Unique Bella demolished four rivals in taking Sunday’s Grade II, $200,000 Santa Ynez Stakes at Santa Anita by 7 ½ lengths under Mike Smith. Assuming command three furlongs from home, Unique Bella’s only race from that point to the wire was with the clock, which stopped at 1:22.21 for seven furlongs. A rousing 10 ¼ length maiden winner in her second start on Nov. 26 at Del Mar, she provided trainer Jerry Hollendorfer with his second consecutive win in the Santa Ynez and she already has fans and media alike wondering if she could be as good as her 4-year-old stablemate, superstar filly Songbird.
“I’m just blessed, that’s all I can say,” said Smith when asked if he thought Unique Bella might be as good as soon-to-be two time Eclipse Champion Songbird. “Now, it’s more reasonable to compare her (to Songbird). Again, she’s very, very talented but with room to grow. Hopefully with each step, she’ll get smarter about certain things.
“When I saw everyone else send, I thought it was a good time to take a hold of her and see what happens. It didn’t seem to bother her. When we hit the far turn, it was like she was breathing different air. The decisions I make are quick, but you have to make it all seem casual…”
Although she had been odds-on throughout the post parade, Unique Bella ended up going off at even money in the short field of 3-year-old fillies, as a massive amount of money to win came in on eventual third place finisher Shane’s Girlfriend. As a result, Unique Bella paid $4.00, $2.60 and $2.10.
Owned by Don Alberto Stable, Unique Bella, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Tapit, from the Unbridled’s Song mare Unrivaled Belle, is now two for three and with the winner’s share of $120,000, has earnings of $162,400.
“Today, she showed that she’s brilliant,” said Hollendorfer. “We thought she’d jump out of there a little better. I thought she would be close to the lead. Mike used his judgement, got behind and then got to the outside, so it worked out well…We purposely waited this long with her and pointed towards this race. I don’t know if we’ve seen all there is to Unique Bella, but I’ll ask Mike.”
Also trained by Hollendorfer and a 10-length maiden special weight winner in her second start on Dec. 18 at Los Alamitos, It Tiz Well made a good run through the lane to be second, 2 ½ lengths in front of Shane’s Girlfriend.
Ridden by Drayden Van Dyke, It Tiz Well was off at 12-1 and paid $5.80 and $2.60.
Trained by Doug O’Neill and ridden by Flavien Prat, Shane’s Girlfriend was shortening up off a 13 ¼ length win in the one mile Grade III Delta Downs Princess Stakes on Nov. 19, but was never a threat to the winner today. Off at 4-5, she finished 2 ½ lengths in front of Princess Karen and paid $2.10 to show.
Fractions on the race, which was run on a main track that had been upgraded to fast, were 22.33, 44.58 and 1:09.28.
Santa Anita will open for a five-day week on Thursday with first post time at 1 p.m. Admission gates will open at 11 a.m.
EmD RIDING CHAMPS WIN IN CALIFORNIA
It’s time for your weekly roundup of local horses and horsemen in the news:
Emerald Downs’ riding champions Gallyn Mitchell and Rocco Bowen flexed their muscles minutes apart Monday in California, registering upsets both at Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields.
It was Mitchell striking first, riding Jimmy the Juice to a $21.60 mutuel for trainer Vann Belvoir—himself a former Emerald Downs riding champion—in race six at Santa Anita. For Mitchell, 54, it was his first Santa Anita victory in over 25 years, and the latest chapter in a comeback that began last fall for Emerald Downs’ all-time leading rider.
Less than 15 minutes later it was Bowen’s turn to shine with a $69.40 upset aboard Pass Due Payment for trainer Ricardo Perez in the sixth race at Golden Gate Fields.
The 2016 Emerald Downs’ champion with 110 wins, Bowen, 27, has been making his mark in the Bay Area this winter. He tied for seventh with 19 wins at the track’s fall meeting and already has three wins at the winter/spring meet that began last week.
LOCAL STAKES WINNERS ALSO FARING WELL
Although neither was victorious, Emerald Downs’ stakes winners Point Piper and B C Z Middleton continue to fare well in California and Arizona.
Point Piper was handed a near impossible task last month at Los Alamitos. The 2016 Longacres Mile was entered in the $180,000 Winter Challenge for 3-year-olds and up, the race that California Chrome used as a tune-up for next month’s $12 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park.
One of the two best horses in training, California Chrome romped by 12 lengths under wraps in 1:40.03 for 1 1/16 miles. It was a perfect tightener for his highly anticipated rematch with Arrogate in Florida.
Point Piper, meanwhile, easily finished second and earned another $30,000 to push his total over $300,000 for 2016. In his last two starts, Point Piper has faced California Chrome and Midnight Storm, proving life can be tough for a nice horse without conditions.
Even though nine horses lined up against California Chrome, the race was deemed such a mismatch that neither place nor show wagering was allowed and the race still produced a $58,000 minus win pool.
B C Z Middleton has come a long ways the last two years for trainer Jeff Metz and owner/breeder William Burns. Beginning her career with four straight double-digit defeats at Emerald Downs in 2015, she woke up with a drop into the maiden claiming ranks, scoring by nine lengths late in the 2015 season. In 2016, she won the Washington State Legislators vs. older fillies and mares and finished second to Invested Prospect in the Seattle Stakes.
Currently with Metz at Turf Paradise, the just turned 4-year-old filly is living it up at Turf Paradise. She scored by 1-½ lengths in the Princess of Palms Stakes at 6 furlongs ad finished runner-up to Constellation in the City of Phoenix Stakes at 6 furlongs—the latter race adding luster as Constellation returned with a 12-1 upset in the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes last week at Santa Anita.
LUCARELLI APPEARS TO HAVE A GOOD ONE
Makaha Heat, owned and trained by Frank Lucarelli, appears to be developing into a star this winter in Northern California.
A California-bred by Heatseeker, Makaha Heat improved to 2-for-2 with a 2-length victory in a $40,000 optional claimer last week at Golden Gate, and she could be a contender in the $50,000 California Oaks on Saturday, February 11. Ridden by Irving Orozco, Makaha Heat ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.35 and earned a lofty 75 Beyer, up 15 points from her impressive maiden victory in November.
Be Faithful, dam of Makaha Heat, is the sister of Dance With Carson, producer of Emerald Downs’ champions Winning Machine and Champagneandcaviar.
The late David Taylor, whose Find Joy was among the top 3-year-old fillies last year at Emerald Downs, bred Makaha Heat.
December 26 was a big day for local horsemen at Golden Gate. Lazzarella, fourth to Makaha Heat in the November 27 maiden race, scored a $34.20 upset for trainer Blaine Wright and owner Luigi Di Pietro in a $31,000 maiden special weight later on the card, running six furlongs in 1:11.28 while defeating 3-5 favorite Americana.
PORTLAND MEADOWS EXTENDS SEASON
Portland Meadows will close two weeks later than previously announced, with closing day on Tuesday, January 17.
PM’s four remaining race days: Monday, January 9; Tuesday, January 10 (featuring $25,000 Oregon Derby); Sunday, January 15, and Tuesday, January 17.
BREEDING ODDITY IN OREGON
Full brothers Its Allabout Jerry and Grindcicle both scored prominent victories last month at Portland Meadows, the former prevailing as the 2-5 favorite in a $9,000 allowance race and the latter registering a mammoth 43-1 upset in the Oregon His Stakes.
Oregon-breds by Grindstone-Icicle Angel, 5-year-old Its Allabout Jerry and 4-year-old Grindicle were both bred by Jack and Cookie Root.
Trained by Rigoberto Velasquez for owners Rancho Viejo and Lisa Baze, Its Allabout Jerry is clearly the top handicap runner in the Rose City. Winner of the Portland Meadows Mile in his previous start, the 2015 Oregon Horse of the Year was awesome in the allowance victory, scoring by 10 ¼ lengths in 1:41.29 for 1 1/16 miles—which is only .09 seconds off the track record established by Beau Julian way back in 1972. Its Allabout Jerry earned a career-high 94 Beyer and improved 7-3-5 in 25 starts with earnings of $97,955.
Trained by Rolland Fergason and owned by Hurliman Enterprises, Grindcicle has been a bit slower in his development. After winning just once in 11 previous tries, Grindcicle was ignored in the Oregon His, emerging from the fog for a three-quarter-length victory over 2-5 favorite Barb’s Boo in 1:12.51 for 6 furlongs.
YO Y ME CONTINUES TO ROLL IN PHOENIX
So Lucky easily was the best 2-year-old colt or gelding at Emerald Downs last year, winning three stake and over $100,000 in purses. But Arizona-bred Yo Y Me—who made a pair of appearances here last summer—is by far the best juvenile at Turf Paradise.
Since shipping to Arizona, Yo Y Me has reeled off four consecutive stakes victories and earned $124,515 for owner/trainer Kevin Eikleberry. The most recent score was a neck triumph in Saturday’s $30,000 Lost in the Fog Juvenile Stakes, in which Yo Y Me ($4.20) ran 6 ½ furlongs n 1:17.45 and earned a 66 Beyer.
At Emerald Downs, Yo Y Me finished second and third in a pair of $19,000 maiden special weights, the first won by The Chilli Man and the second by Ask Not.
MISCELLANEOUS . . .
At Portland Meadows, Kassie Guglielmino holds a 37-35 edge over Nathan Haar in the jockeys’ standings. Eliksa Kubinova is third with 33 wins. . .In the trainers’ race, Rigoberto Velasquez has 24 wins while Jonathan Nance is second with 19 wins. . . Metz is enjoying a good season at Turf Paradise with 11 wins from just 36 starts. . .Emerald Downs’ Promotion Manager Gary Dougherty reports Larry Mars was the overall winner of the Sunday Sports Pick 4 contest which concluded this past weekend. . .Only 30 days until training begins at Emerald Downs!
|2017 PURSE SCHEDULE||2017||2017|
|Marathon Seriies||Purse||BC Bred|
|Marathon #1||$5000St Alw||$16,000||$16,000|
|Marathon #2||$5000St Alw||$18,000||$18,000|
|Marathon #3||$5000St Alw||$20,000||$20,000|
|Claiming C& G/ Opt/$35,000||$35,000||$27,000||$27,000|
|Alw/NW2/BC3/opt $25000 ( 3 & up C&G)||ALW||$25,000||$25,000|
|Alw/NW2/BC3/opt $25000 ( 3 & up F&M)||ALW||$25,000||$25,000|
|ALW/nw/2/3 Opt $25000 (3 YR OLDS C&G)||ALW||$25,000||$25,000|
|ALW/nw/2/3 Opt $25,000 (3 YR OLDS Filies)||ALW||$25,000||$25,000|
|CATEGORY||Claim $||Purse||BC Bred|
|Claiming C& G||$25,000||$20,000||$25,000|
|Claiming NW2/BC3 C&G||$16,000||$14,000||$17,500|
|Claiming NW2/BC3 F&M||$16,000||$14,000||$17,500|
|Claiming NW/2013/NW2/NW3NW/4 C &G||$4,000||$12,000||$15,000|
|Claiming NW/2013/NW2/NW3/NW4 F&M||$4,000||$12,000||$15,000|
|Maiden Races Only||Claim $||Purse||BC Bred|
|MDN – C&G||MSW||$27,000||$27,000|
|MDN – 2 yr C&G||MSW||$27,000||$27,000|
|MDN- 2 yr F&M||MSW||$27,000||$27,000|
|Mdn 2 yr olds 3/12 *||MSW||$20,000||$20,000|
|Maiden Races Only||Claim $||Purse||BC Bred|
|MDN C & G||$25,000||$17,500||$21,875|
|Mdn 2 yr olds 3/12 * (c&G)||$25,000||$14,000||$17,500|
|Mdn 2 yr olds 3/12 *||$25,000||$14,000||$17,500|
|MDN C & G||$16,000||$14,500||$18,125|
|Mdn 2 yr olds 3/12 *||$16,000||$13,000||$16,250|
|Mdn 2 yr olds 3/12 *||$16,000||$13,000||$16,250|
|Mdn 2 yr olds 3/12 *||$12,500||$12,000||$15,000|
|Mdn 2 yr olds 3/12 *||$8,000||$11,000||$13,750|