Turnout. Every horse owner wants to provide more of it, but that’s often easier said than done. Land is expensive, and here in the Pacific Northwest, our winters and our horses can turn a lovely pasture to mud faster than you can say “What happened to my lovely pasture?!” Here at Safe Harbor Stables, we struggle with the same issues…we have 12 horses in residence at any given time, and limited areas in which to turn them out. Terry and her incredible volunteers work very hard to keep our turnouts in good condition, but even by using our arenas as supplemental turnout areas in the winter, it doesn’t always feel like enough…

KCD logoEnter the King Conservation District. The King Conservation District (KCD) is a natural resources assistance agency that promotes the sustainable use of natural resources through responsible stewardship. The KCD works with landowners and residents to help them recognize and solve potential problems related to water runoff, soil stability, wildlife areas, and other issues. If you operate a horse property, the Conservation District folks can be a wealth of knowledge and assistance, and SAFE has consulted the KCD on a number of issues since moving to our Woodinville property. The KCD assisted us in 2013 with the regrading of our arenas to improve water runoff and drainage issues, granting us half of the funds that we needed for that important project.

Recently, we were visited by a representative of the KCD to discuss building new sacrifice turnout areas, and she brought up the idea of creating a different kind of turnout option for Safe Harbor. Sometimes referred to as a “Paddock Paradise” after a book written by Jaime Jackson, this is a turnout area created by building an all-weather track around the perimeter of the property, using gravel footing and interior fencing. So rather than creating an oblong area like a typical paddock, you create a narrow but long track, which encourages horses to move about, wander to and fro, and essentially exercise themselves. When we took a look at Safe Harbor, we realized that we have a fair amount of unusable space on the property that could be incorporated into a track, creating a turnout area that could be used year round if properly built.

In researching for his book, Paddock Paradise, Jaime Jackson, a former farrier, discovered that wild or feral horses, who spend their days moving from place to place, rarely suffer from lamenesses like navicular disease or laminitis. Jackson started by experimenting with hoof trimming methods that reflected what he saw in wild horses, and went on to develop the concept of turnout practices that also more closely resembled the conditions that wild horses encounter. By creating a Paddock Paradise for his own horses, he discovered that not only did they become more fit and healthy, they also seemed significantly happier!

The more we looked into this idea, the more we liked it. It would be a way to promote the type of mental enrichment among our horses that occurs when they spend more time moving about and interacting with obstacles. The track could have feeding stations, scratching stations, and other attractions spread along it. And not only could it provide mental stimulation, but it would have obvious physical benefits as well by promoting self-exercise. And hoof benefits…harder, happier hooves that need trimming less frequently. 

As part of investigating whether a system like this would work at Safe Harbor, SAFE President Debi Shatos contacted Lane’s End Farm in Redmond, and paid them a visit to see their paddock track system in person. Debi also submitted a grant application to KCD to apply for cost-share assistance for the project, which was estimated to cost approximately $7200 to complete.

On November 25, we were delighted to learn that our application had been approved and that the King Conservation District had agreed to grant us $3,600 towards the Paddock Paradise project. We are incredibly grateful to everyone at the KCD for their guidance and support, and we look forward to working with them as we bring this project to completion.

To raise the funds needed for our half of the cost of the project, we’ve decided to kick off a mini-fundraiser to help bring in the remaining $3,600 we need. Everyone who gives during this fundraiser will become part of Safe Harbor history, as we will be erecting a commemorative sign to be displayed at the farm, recognizing everyone who contributed to make this possible for our horses. Your gift, no matter the size, can help us reach our goal, and your name will always be proudly displayed for everyone to see. Perhaps it will look something like this (click to enlarge):


Please click here to make a tax deductible donation to our Paddock Paradise Project! Our goal is only $3,600…together we should be able to raise those funds easily! And thank you in advance for helping keep the SAFE horses healthy and happy, all year long!