I have spent much of the morning reading about the natural horsemanship and paddock paradise.  There are many interesting articles out there trying to change the thinking on the way horses have been domestically kept for over a thousand years.


“But sometime around 700 A.D., with the rapid development of kingdoms and castles– complete with cavalries and armies to secure or defend various geographic areas, horses had increasingly been removed from their free-roaming lifestyle and were moved into small spaces for reasons such as an easier prevention of theft and keep the horses close by in a location convenient to the desire to be able to tack them up at a moment’s notice. Of course,what was happening was the creation of the notion that it was acceptable to keep these 1,000 pound animals warehoused or ‘in storage’ so that they were easily accessible.” ~Jill Willis

So I grew up thinking grass is good for horses.  In South Florida the grass that grows does not provide enough nutrients to sustain a horse so hay is fed all year round.  In Pennsylvania the grass is lush enough to provide the sustenance they need and hay is not necessary during the summer.  I have take equine management courses where they are telling me to grow my lush green pastures and let the horses out on them.  One thing to note is a good reason for pasture management is to ensure the land is absorbing the rain water and not causing erosion on the areas where the horses have destroyed the grass by over grazing and treading on the land.

Now I am learning that too much lush green grass is bad.


“These rich grasses are not safe because they are too high in sugars/ carbohydrates.  There is a delicate balance of microbial life in a horse’s gut, and these innate, good bacteria have their own biological requirements. If not fed properly, through a reasonably natural diet, then they are subject to being dominated by harmful bacteria that do not live in symbiosis with the equine.  

The rich sugars feed these detrimental bacteria and facilitate their dominion.  Through a complex series of metabolic events, these bad bacteria release waste by-products also known as endotoxins.  These poisons travel the equine cardiovascular system, and once meeting the hoof, they initiate an enzymatic reaction that deteriorates the attachment mechanism that holds the hoof to the horse. This is commonly known as laminitis, and is the second most prolific killer of domestic horses today. ” ~Narayan Khalsa

I still have more processing to do and am not ready for full transformation to the Paddock Paradise system as it does leave me some questions.

  • How do I ensure all the horses have coverage and protection from the weather?  In the farm’s current set up only the heard leaders are allowed under the shed roof during the rain.  While the others get wet.  I know that the water will not kill them but I have seen them shivering coming in from the wet and cold.  I have also had a horse get constantly rained on in Miami that he got rain rot.  If I build shelters in various areas of the track system will the herd separate to go shelters down the track if the herd bosses have the closest one?
  • Will this concept be accepted by my boarders?  I don’t just have to decide in my mind but also see if the boarder are interested.  I guess that we can still move ahead with the concept but keep the boarders in the traditional system if they want.
  • My older horses are on pellet grains.  Will they get the nutrients they need on hay, oats and minerals?  I thought this was interesting since 3 horses on the farm are on beet pulp and the senior feed has beet pulp in it: “Throw any and all beet pulp or feed with beet pulp in the top 15 ingredients into the garbage or compost heap. Whether organic or GMO, many unshod horses are ‘foot sore’ or ‘sensitive’ on hard ground or gravel until the beet pulp is removed from the diet. This is one of the biggest waste products that you can put into a horse (with rice bran, soy, corn and various grain by-products running closely behind. They serve no healthy purpose for the horse.” ~Jill Willis

There is no way to know who is right but for now I can say that the horses at GSF are healthy, happy and sound.  So we must be doing something right.