Track systems

Track systems

Whether you are encouraging your horse to lose weight, or want them to live a more natural lifestyle, track systems are a great way to manage their grazing while improving your horse’s health. We find out how to set them up and the benefits they bring to your horse.

With conditions such as laminitis and EMS affecting large numbers of horses, and up to 50% of the UK’s horses being obese, owners are constantly looking for more natural ways to keep their horses that promote healthy weight management. One such way is the track system (also known as a Paddock Paradise), which is a way of managing horses similar to how they would live in the wild.

What are horse track systems?

Designed to encourage movement and restrict grass intake, track systems are circular or continuous loop tracks created using either permanent or temporary fencing around the outer perimeter of a field. The tracks are either made up of earth or are artificially surfaced with sand, gravel or concrete, or a mixture. They are designed to hold a number of horses depending on the size of the track, to replicate a natural herd environment.

‘Track systems are becoming more and more popular, and are being used by many of my clients,’ says Petplan equine vet Juliette Edmonds. ‘They encourage movement by creating more distance between resources such as food and water, so horses spend more time and energy getting to the resources.’ Tracks can include various ‘stations’ placed around them such as netted hay bales, a barn for shelter, sandy rolling areas and mounds for playing on. This not only gets horses moving more, but it also offers enrichment in a more natural environment.


Track systems offer many benefits to horses, including increasing movement, supporting weight loss and reducing grass intake. 

‘Through horse track systems, it is easier to restrict grass access, because they quickly eat down the little grass there is, and some parts of the track can be covered with an artificial surface,’ says Juliette. ‘For example, it is possible to have all-weather surfaces such as bark and sand, so that winter turnout is more feasible.’

Encouraging more walking exercise during turnout is beneficial for most horses, but particularly those who are overweight or stiff, and those who are not ridden or exercised in other ways to maintain body condition and muscle strength. 

‘Restrictions on grass intake is beneficial for laminitis-prone animals, overweight horses or to help control metabolic conditions such as EMS,’ adds Juliette. ‘Muscle disorders which benefit from regular exercise such as rhabdomyolysis (azoturia) or PSSM may also be managed more easily with the track system.’

Horse track systems can also have positive psychological benefits.

‘Because horses are moving more and spending more time performing natural behaviours such as foraging and mutual grooming, there is less chance of boredom and stress-related behaviours developing,’ Juliette explains. ‘Movement also helps to build muscle, burn fat, stimulate healthy hoof growth and keep the gut active and moving.’

Another really important aspect of the horse track system is that it gives horses more autonomy over their life.

‘They can choose when to eat and sleep, when to play and when to groom,’ says Juliette. ‘They are never waiting for someone to turn up and let them out into the field or bring them food.’

Horse track system ideas

Track system designs are hugely adaptable and can be set up to work in lots of different situations. Whether you have a small square-shaped field or a huge 30-acre paddock, you can utilise different designs to work with any shape and size of field.

The most basic and easy system is a simple loop around the outer edge of the paddock. You could then use the middle of the loop as part of the track or for growing hay or grazing older or younger horses who would benefit from the grass.

If you would like to set up your own track, here are some starting pointers:

  • Make the track 2x as wide as the length of the biggest horse in the herd to ensure that horses can pass each other and turn around safely with plenty of room.
  • Try and include larger rest areas within the track where horses can stop to eat or rest without feeling too confined.
  • Offer shelter if you can, either via hedges and trees or a man-made barn or field shelter, so they can get out of the wind and rain or sun.
  • Try to avoid dead ends by creating a continuous loop, and try not to make the track too wide, as it will discourage movement.
  • When deciding where to place your tracks within the field, work out where the wetter areas are, and avoid using those in the winter. Try re-routing across higher, better draining ground until the drier weather in the spring. In very muddy patches, you may need to use artificial surfaces or mud mats.
  • If mud is a big issue, it may be that you utilise a track when the horses are most at risk for laminitis in the warmer, drier months, and use the middle in the winter. 
  • Spread out essential items around the track, such as shelter, hay stations and water, as this will keep the horses on the move. You can also add other enrichment like mineral blocks and scratching posts to encourage movement.

Do you keep your horse on a track system and see many health benefits? If so, head to our Facebook page and let us know!