You probably won't be fortunate enough to find that the perfect location for your paddock is at your disposal when you are searching for land. But what is the perfect paddock and how you should you set it and maintain it?
The best choice of land would be an area on higher ground with good drainage. A gentle slope really helps when it comes to avoiding boggy ground. Clearly the closer the paddock is to your yard the better.
As a general rule you need 1 acre per horse for grazing. But if you are supplementing their diet with forage or using the paddock for only short periods of time you merely need to ensure that your horse has enough room to run about.
Even a site which is well-drained can get churned up in bad weather. An area of hard standing can be very useful and you should consider a layer of gravel, wood chip or sand adjacent to the gate.
Post and rail or timber fences provide safe and secure perimeters for your paddock. But remember that your fence will only ever be as sturdy as the posts. Use a post hole digger and a post knocker to ensure that your fence posts are stable. You may also require electric fencing, if only to enable you to confine your horse to a smaller area when you need to. This could prove useful if you need to restrict their grazing or if they are prone to laminitis. Electric fencing can also be handy to cordon off the area around the gate. This allows you more space to lead horses into or out of the field without the other horses crowding around.
Depending on the hardiness of your horse or pony and the location of your paddock, you may need to provide a shelter. This will offer protection from the wind, rain and cold in winter, together with valuable shade and protection from flies in hotter weather. If the paddock is exposed and offers no trees for shade, you will need to provide a purpose built structure.
Your paddock will benefit from your close attention throughout the year. Use a topper mower to reduce the number of unwanted plants and to encourage the regrowth of forage. You will eventually turn overgrown areas into grassland. Roll your paddock in spring when the ground is firm. Harrowing the ground will get air circulating to maximise growth and this should also be done in spring. Perform soil analysis to discover which nutrients your soil may be lacking and to ensure a neutral PH level. It is advisable to reseed the ground if it has become poached in the winter months. The best time to do this is late summer. Remove droppings regularly as your horse will not feed in soiled areas. Removing the manure will also reduce the incidence of flies, improve worm control and minimise run-off into the watercourse. Check your fencing regularly for wear and tear, rotting and other damage. A small problem will soon become a big one if your fence is left to disintegrate.
Horses need access to clean water at all times. So be sure to include an adequate water supply for the number of horses in your paddock. A convenient way to ensure there is always water available is to have a piped supply to the water trough. Check the water daily to make sure there are no leaks, blockages or contaminants. The perfect paddock requires planning and hard work but it will all be worth the effort when you have a happy, healthy and safe horse.