How is a track and equi-central system different to grass livery?
Unlike grass livery, on this system horses only have limited access to grass and are fed a diet of ad lib hay instead, which is lower in sugar and starch and therefore a better forage for horses.
This system also requires a HUGE amount of maintenance, from winter proofing to making sure hay stations are never empty and the track/corral/paddocks are cleared of droppings. Surfaces are frequently needing to be topped up and new hardstanding’s are put in place as the weather dictates. Horses are encouraged to be on the move, eating little and often, as they would naturally.
What is a track system?
Rather than being turned out into paddocks, a track is fenced along the perimeter of the paddock, allowing for restricted grazing and increased movement. The horses are fed ad lib hay, and the track creates minimal grass. Horses are encouraged to forage as they would naturally and are fed a diet of ad lib hay from various slow feeding stations around the track.
My horse has never been on a track system before and I am worried about feeding ad lib. Surely he will just eat and eat until all the hay is gone?
Before I first trialled my horses on the mini track this was one of my main concerns too, especially as one of my horses is a rescue, a case of neglect who was found starved and malnourished. I thought he would see the hay and eat and eat until he keeled over with colic! However, I needn't have worried. It didn't take him long to realise that because the hay never ran out he didn't need to scoff it as soon as it appeared! Within a few days I was returning to half full haynets and happy full horses who would never have to feel the horrid and unnatural pains of hunger again!
Plus, all of the hay stations on the track are fed through small holed nets/slow feeders, to slow the eating process, waste as little hay as possible, and avoid new trackies from gorging on the hay. If you are really concerned about your horse adapting to track life, please don't hesitate contact me and discuss what we can do to help- we can even double-bag haynets for a few days until your equine friend realises that the food is always available and he/she doesn't need to gorge.
But horses are just supposed to eat grass and it can't do them any damage, right?
Wrong! Our grasses today can be extremely dangerous to horses, especially in the Spring, causing common problems such as obesity and laminitis and can even cause fatalities if not restricted. Our grasses have changed so much when compared to grass that the wild horse would graze; Grass in England seems to be predominantly cow grasses, which are rich in sugar and high in starch = not the best forage for horses! The horse is designed to move a lot and eat little and often, but alot of the time our horses are seen just standing and eating, and not really doing much moving at all. The wild horse would travel miles per day, stopping to eat a little grass and graze plants as they went. Our system mimics this natural behaviour, and reduces the risks of health problems caused by non-restrictive access to sugary grass, that are becoming more and more common. The horses kept at here are allowed access to grass during the winter months when it has stopped growing and to restricted grazing during the summer, alongside ad lib hay and hedges to browse.
Do the horses have to be barefoot?
The clue is in our name! Yes they do. This is not only because we believe this is the healthiest and best option for your horse’s all round longevity, health and welfare, but also because it minimises risks of injury in a herd environment. We also feed our horses from ground nets, which the horses could potentially get a horse shoe caught in.
Do you have stables?
Yes – we have two huge airy stables in an indoor barn that is directly opposite the farm house. The stables are only for ‘emergency’ use, such as if a horse has an injury that requires box rest, or for the vet/farrier/grooming etc. We also have two surfaced pens with shelters on the main yard that can be used instead of stables in a box rest situation.
Do the horses live out all year?
Yes - Our horses live out 24/7 365 days a year. They always have access to the large hardstanding’s/corrals situated at the front of the track’s with a walk in/out barn.
Are the tracks open all year round?
Do the horses have access to grass?
A very small amount yes. Our tracks are not surfaced apart from the big hardstanding’s at the front, which we feel is more natural and beneficial to the horses. This means that some grass roots do grow on track which we find encourages the horses to move more and provides enrichment. There is never more than short sprouts of grass so no horses that are at risk of lami etc. will be affected.
If your horse requires grass this can be arranged and he can be given access to our carefully managed track middle paddocks.
What if I want my horse to have some grass?
We are very flexible here at AVL. If you have a young or old horse who can eat grass, we always have one of the paddocks in the centre of the track free for them to go into as you please. At the moment, we have one old retired boy who goes into the field overnight to enjoy the Spring grass and help him keep condition.
What if my horse or I don't get with this type of horse keeping?
As much as I think keeping horses on tracks and/or equicentral systems is the way forward, I understand that it may not work for every horse, be it for a medical reason or behavioural problem or an owner problem!! Some horses (or owners!) may be so set it in being kept 'traditionally' that they may struggle to adapt, or some horses may be too food aggressive and a danger or threat to other track members. For this reason, any new member is required to complete 3 month's trial - this way you can decide whether the livery is right for you and your horse, and I can decide whether you and your horse are right for the livery!
Why do you have two herds?
We have two herds because we found two smaller herds of 6-8 horses works better than one big herd. This is because not all horses get along, lots of geldings have stallion retained behaviours so cannot live with mares, and because from a management and safety point of view, it works better! We have one herd of geldings only, and one mixed herd.
Do you have a farrier/ trimmer/ep?
Yes, we have an excellent equine podiatrist called Katherina Jay who has been coming to AVL since we opened - see her website. You can however, use whoever you like, whether this be a barefoot trimmer/ep or a farrier.
Do any of them get a feed?
Yes, in fact all of our horses get a feed every morning. It is entirely dependent on the owner as to what they have and whether they get fed, but we recommend that all horses are fed a vit and min balancer, and salt daily. Some horses also require medications and supplements to help with various issues. However, none of them get fed any feeds that contain molasses, or high sugar. The majority get a handful of chaff, and a balancer and salt, and only a few have more bulk or linseed to help maintain condition.
Does anybody ride?
Yes!! The majority of horses here are ridden.
Do you have local hacking?
Yes – see facilities for more info or our gallery for pictures. We also have a huge surfaced round pen for riding and ground work all year round, as well as the choice of two neighbouring schools if required.
Do any of the horses wear rugs?
Yes if they require it. A lot of it is owner preference but we try to encourage the owners to not over rug. The horses don’t need rugs unless they are clipped, underweight, old, young, or have a lack of immunity/on-going condition.
Do you have worming programme?
Yes. Our horses are worm counted and only wormed if required. I am trained to do faecal egg counts, so samples are collected and tests done on site. We also saliva test for Tapeworm and/or treat for tapeworm and encysted red worm once a year.
Do you quarantine new arrivals?
Yes. As instructed by our vet, horses have to be blood tested for strangles 2 weeks before arrival, and are then quarantined for one-two weeks once they arrive, and have a second blood test two weeks after the first to ensure they are strangles free. Don’t worry though, your horse will not be required to be stabled for quarantine as we have appropriate surfaced pens where they can see other horses.