Updated: Jul 21, 2022
Winter can and does put people off having a track system for their horse or horses. It's cold, it rains all the time and for 90% of us equine owners, that means mud.
With Laminitis and other diet related issues still a problem for many in the horse world, is being mud free worth it if it means risking the health and wellbeing of your horse?
Track systems, ah the wonderful track system. Track systems allow you to manage your horse's diet without restricting their movement. Typically, they're also made up of herds rather than just 1 singular horse - the more horses on a track system, the more they move, the more benefits you will see.
With Winter and of course, living in the wonderfully wet UK, this does mean that if you don't have a fully surfaced track, you will get mud. Many horse owners are on rented land or have their horses on livery yards meaning that being surfaced isn't always an option. Unfortunely, this also means that many are put off from setting up a track system simply because said track will become muddy during the Winter.
While mud is inconvenient, its not the end of the world and while we understand that some land owners won't allow for tracks due to this, if YOU have the option to set up a track, don't let the mud put you off.
Tracks are the way forward for so many grass affected horses and can and will benefit from them massively if given the chance. If you're shutting your horse in their stable during Winter for prolonged periods of time so they don't trash your field or because 'it's too wet for them and they don't like the mud/rain', you need to do some research and look into the most basic needs of your horse and ask yourself if you're meeting them. Horses need to move, they need friends and they need a species appropriate diet, all of which you can give them even through a wet and miserable Winter.
> If you haven't already set up your track, study your land. When it rains, what areas are affected the most? Does it flood anywhere? What sort of ground are you on? Where do they most commonly stand? Do you have hills and dips? Can you incorporate any trees or hedges for natural shelter? You'll want to set up your track system with all of these things in mind.
> If you've already got your track in place, don't be afraid to move things about if they're not working for you or yours horses.
> Invest in some Mud Control Mats, or something similar. If investing in some mats isn't doable right now, search your Facebook Marketplace for old patio slabs, concrete sleepers and other second hand, renter friendly hard standing you can arrange around commonly stood areas. We have and still do use both second hand patio slabs and Mud Control Mats.
> Shuffle your feeding areas around if you need to. Move your hay nets or hay boxes to dryer parts of your track and allow your more churned up areas to dry out a bit without the added footfall.
> Mud Fever. We hear it all the time. If your horse is off any grass and on a track system, chances are they won't get any. Mud Fever a lot of the time is diet related.
> Don't attach your own feelings about the weather onto your horse. Your horse would much prefer to be outside with some shelter they can freely use, than stuck in their stable. Horse's don't feel the cold like we do.
Winter does make things difficult, we appreciate that and sometimes we really, really hate the Winter too. There's only so many times you can have wet knickers in one week. However, when you own a horse with a history of Laminitis, or a pony that struggles with EMS, allowing them to live a life that best suits their most natural, basic needs is very much worth any mud you may get.