Track Systems and Track Livery Yards
Track systems and the benefits for CPL horses.
Track living helps by encouraging the natural movement, joint and hoof flexion that is essential to support the lymphatic system in the lower legs. Like a pump, this action carries through the hoof and frog, fetlocks and pasterns – pushing blood and lymph fluid up and out of the leg. It is called Lymphatic Retraction.
This pumping action is very important because unlike humans, horses don’t have any muscles below the knee and hock to help push against the vessels and give them the added pressure to help the lymph (fluid) move out of the leg. Elsewhere in the equine body, lymphatics are supported by muscle contractions – such as the lungs filling and emptying or the gut motility.
It’s also important to note that horses lymphatic vessels are made up of a high number of elastic fibres, whereas human’s are made up of more smooth muscle fibre. This means human vessels have a slight “firmness” to them, which helps them pump, but horses have much less of that. So they need more movement to assist the lymph return back up and out of the leg.
Horses with CPL tend to be affected by tissue changes over time, and one of these makes the structure of elastin (a protein) less able to keep tissue mobile. This can combine with an increase in collagen production – both of which make the skin less hydrated and supple. Studies have found horses with CPL to lack elastin when compared to warmbloods.
When we can allow the horse consistent natural movement and natural flexion of the hoof, as in track living, the essential ‘pump action’ can be simulated. Circulation out of the leg is increased and so is the lymphatic retraction.
This is not the same as just being turned out 24/7 in a paddock where horses may run about for short periods of time but tend to just graze around themselves, reducing movement. While 24/7 paddock turnout is still preferable to stabling, track systems encourage much more natural movement as the horse walks between hay and water stations and over different terrain. Some even have sandpits and obstacles like logs and water features. All these things replicate a more natural environment and are good for keeping the horse healthy – both physically and mentally.
Track system livery yards are typically grass-free (or limited grass) and have special surfaces put down to avoid mud. Being grass-free is useful in removing things that are known to cause sensitivities – like rye (dairy) grass and clover – and for horses that are prone to being overweight or have had laminitis. CPL horses need to be kept at a healthy weight as being too big puts extra strain on their lymphatic system and they can also be prone to laminitis. Tracks are useful for horses with EMS, IR, PPID (Cushings disease) too, as well as for rehab and retirement purposes.
How can I make my own track?
You can easily make a basic track with electric fencing and strategically placed hay and water to encourage movement. Just make sure the track is wide enough for the horse to turn around and roll safely. You can move the track around to avoid poaching the ground when its muddy.
What are the costs of track livery?
In the post below, Chloe Holland at Longmarsh Track Livery in Somerset breaks down her costs to show the work that goes into daily and routine management of her track system.
Find a track livery yard in your area (UK) here.