We Track Graze all our horses, in order to balance their green grass intake. So we feed a little bit of grass but mostly hay as to reduce the high levels of sugars and starches found in most of our NZ grasses. Therefore we have an ad lib approach to hay, which is available 24/7 through our Natural Horse Slow Feed Haynets.
This Paddock Paradise/Species Appropriate approach has proved to be a marvellous tool for our herd of beloved waifs and strays, as most of them in our care came in as rescue/rehab horses, who often have special needs, and Tracking has helped us to manage a wide variety of various horses, who otherwise would have had to be locked up. So, it’s worked out to be a great way to give those horses a much freer, and therefore happy lifestyle of living outdoors, 24/7, with other horse companions :)
This has included many horses over the years who previously had to be restricted on grass due to the condition known as "Grass Affectedness", along with those suffering from various Equine Metabolic issues such as Insulin Resistance, Laminitis and Cushing’s too.
Another bonus is on how much Tracked Grazing does to provide good hoof conditioning, which comes about due to all the extra movement, which we try to emulate at our centre, as just like in the wild, horses roam their own self-made tracks. So, Tracking has definitely encouraged our herd to move so much more. Which showed up to a 20% increase (we GPS tracked them to research this) over the movement made on a comparable sized paddock. This is because they must move to eat, mimicking natural foraging and providing much needed exercise....
But one of the down sides to Tracking, is due to the constant traffic of our horses traversing a much smaller lane style of grazing compared to traditional paddock grazing, is during our hot summer months of New Zealand, the heat often bakes the ground to be rock hard.
And along with no moisture, no matter how good your horses’ hooves are, this can lead to contracted and brittle hooves, which are prone to cracks and chips when they are left dry for prolonged periods, such as a full summer.
A feature of horses that live in the wild is that most will immerse their hooves in water at least once a day, when visiting their watering holes, helping to condition those wild hooves that all us Barefoot Advocates want for our own domestic horses, so it's well worth finding a way to implement a way to get your horses hooves wet.
Whether that be from pouring water onto the hooves, or standing their legs in a bucket, to hosing legs down or sinking hooves into a foot bath, pond or stream. Whichever way works for you, it's well worth the effort as water provides such magnificent benefits.
This year we are using the hoof bath shown, as after making our own homemade models for many years, we finally caved in a bought a plastic one to help us with time management and water savings.
However, don't let high the prices of shop-bought hoof baths put you off, as they can also be made cheaply to do the job too, as we have done many times in the past. As 4 half rounds of wood, and an old carpet, and some polythene for the liner, can quickly be knocked up to be a very effective hoof bath as shown in photo below.
We hope this will give you some ideas to help hydrate your horses' hooves over the summer months.
Happy Horsing :)