Team Half-Ass and the Track System Update

The last time I wrote about our track system attempts was back in May last year. Towards the end of the year I abandoned the track idea because it was just making too much mess of the ground; not a serious mess as we’re on sandy soil here, but enough to be annoying our yard owner. The herd will always take the shortest possible route which means you end up with single track pathways worn into the ground and, in winter, these get particularly muddy and churned up – especially when certain mares decide they have to immediately gallop as fast as possible from one end to the other, slamming on the brakes at the last minute and occasionally (but not always) managing to stop before they hit the fence.

We moved onto the hillside a few months ago and I began tentatively making tracks again. At first I had to move a lot of fencing – when the fenceline started to look a bit bald from where they’d been walking, I would move it inwards or outwards a few metres. The last few weeks have been perfect conditions for a track as it’s been bone dry (apart from a 10 minute downpour a couple of days ago, it hasn’t rained here for a month) and so they haven’t trashed the ground by continuously walking in the same places all day.

Here’s a bit of video of the herd walking from one end of the track (the end where they get fed) to the other (the end where I’ve been moving the fence for strip-grazing) yesterday evening. Sped up, of course (I missed a trick by not applying the Benny Hill theme tune. You’ll have to imagine it). Xato doesn’t feature because he always takes his time checking all the empty feed bowls before wandering round on his own – when he reached me, he stopped and waited patiently until I’d finished filming so that he could have his bedtime scratchies. He always gets bedtime scratchies.

With the track set up, it takes approximately 3 minutes to walk from one end of the field to the other.

And some photos from the track:

The ‘top’ end of the track – i.e. the part nearest the stables. The mules’ dinner pens are here and, in the mornings, I spread out some loose hay in the shade for them.

 

Taken from the same position as above, just looking in the opposite direction – the track goes along the bottom left, you can probably see the dust trail they’ve made! They did have the green area you can see, but I sectioned that off a while ago to try and get some growth back.

 

The bottom of the track. The first two photos are now to our left.

 

Taken from the far end of the track. This part stays shady for most of the day.

 

The same section of track as above. I hang the straw nets here in the morning; initially I put the straw at the top end of the track where the water trough is, because I wanted water to be easily accessible – but that meant they were having to stand out in direct sunlight, so I dragged a second water trough round to this end of the track and put the straw here in the shade.

 

In this photo, we’ve followed the track round to it’s furthest end and are looking back the way we’ve come. The track comes round the top to the very right of the image, then goes back down the hill to my left. The section in the middle has already been grazed and then closed off in the hopes of encouraging regrowth – unfortunately, four weeks of no rain is not great grass-growing weather!

 

When I last wrote about the hill field, Little Mare (the other livery on the yard besides our four) was still in recovery and so was confined to the cattle track (this straight section with permanent fencing on the left) as it provided an easy way of creating a small square pen. Now she has the middle of the hill field as well as the middle of the cattle track, which means that she can be near our herd wherever they are on their track. Obviously I would much rather see horses in herds, but after years of solitary turnout I don’t think reintroduction to a herd would go well for her. This is the best solution.

 

From the amount of poo we clear up from this area in the mornings, our four obviously spend a lot of time hanging out here. I think it’s sweet and a little sad that they want to be close to her.

 

And we’re back round at the start. Little Mare’s pen is directly behind me and the first photos were taken in the top right of the picture. This is our section of the cattle track, with the automatic trough and their salt lick.
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Mulographer Sari

Sari was raised by cats which accounts for her solitary nature, occasional mania, and attraction to shiny objects. After riding and being around horses for 22 years, she discovered that she was, in fact, a mule girl and fell hopelessly in love with these extraordinary creatures. She lives in England and is married to Ben, who is potentially the best Ben who ever Benned.

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