In the summer time it is a different story. Ponies such as Shetland and Exmoor are much more suited to the harsher lands on the top of Exmoor and on the Shetland Isles and if we gave them access to unrestricted grazing at Arlington in the summer we would end up with very fat ponies and risk serious health problems such as laminitis. One solution many horse owners resort to is stabling the ponies or seriously restricting their grazing which leads to very bare and poached ground.
We do not want to stable our ponies all summer, partly as this is a lot of work, but it also leads to further health issues as ponies are not designed to stand still all day either and can also develop breathing problems indoors. To restrict their grazing to a level which would actually keep the weight off means we would end up keeping them on a very small patch of bare ground which is not very good field management as we end up with bare soil and lots of weeds and very sad looking ponies too.
So what is the answer?
Well other than moving all our ponies to the top of Exmoor or off to the Shetland Isles – which might be nice for the summer! we have designed a plan for this season based on an established model of pony management developed in the United States called Paddock Paradise. This system is trying to replicate as much as possible the wild horse model - to enable us to keep horses in as natural a way as possible, based on how they would live if left to their own devices. As prey animals they instinctively travel over known routes, to find forage and water and can move up to 20 miles in a day, picking their way through rough grazing on a variety of plants as they go. They often travel in order of the herd, with the leader at the front.
|Our track keeps the ponies moving|
We have two track systems which we will use this summer, one on the perimeter of the field, where we have also brought in a small herd of sheep to munch the sweetest grass and help with the worm (parasite) control. The second is in the woodlands, where there is some grass and other scrub such as brambles and bracken and over time we may end up supplementing this with hay or straw as needed. This year is experimental but it will be very interesting to see if it works and so far so good.
We will also be trying to exercise the ponies as much as possible through some of our new work on the estate, such as mowing the lawns with the ponies and taking pack pony trekking tours. If you are interested in finding out more about this model please look at the Paddock Paradise website or come and visit us at Arlington to see for yourself.