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Horse care: paddock footing

Karen's barn, horse barn, mud, muddy, horse in mudThought this might be a fun post to throw out there.  I recently had a conservation district contact me and ask if they could use some of my muddy paddock photos.  They sent me the links to the photos they wanted to use.  I went to look at them and realized that those were all taken a few years ago before we improved the footing in the horse paddock and barn areas.  I then pulled up some more recent photos showing the difference.

Karen's barn, horse barn, mud, muddy horseIt cost us around $600 to bring in several loads of DG (decomposed granite), sand, and then have the contractor use a tractor to grade, level, and compact it down.

It was some of the best money I’ve ever spent.  What a difference it has made for my horses hooves in the winter.  The benefits are even greater than just their feet though – now when it’s wet and muddy they prefer to roll in the sand rather than out in the field in the mud.  So they stay cleaner and are easier to clean up.

frozen footing, winter footing 006 (Medium)

If any of you are at the point where you are tired of the muddy mess that your paddocks or horse area turns into during the winter, now is the time to do something about it.  You’ll be glad you did.

It was maybe 3 or 4 winters ago that we had months and months straight of wet, muddy, mucky footing out in the barn and it got old fast.  The only way I could clean up manure was when everything was frozen, which then added to the difficulty of keeping things cleaned up.

I have found that if my horses have their hooves packed with clean mud or wet sand, they don’t get thrush.  If they step in manure or muddy urine puddles and then pack more mud over that then all bets are off.

Karen's barn, horse barn, horses in mudbo hooves november 2010, sand, horse hooves 154 (Small)Picking up manure from the top of the sand is now easy, whether or not things are frozen.  The best part is that no matter how long things are wet in the winter now (weeks at a time), my horses feet are healthy, and totally thrush free.  It is also safer, because the new footing doesn’t tend to turn into a big ice skating rink when everything freezes like the previous muddy footing did.  Frozen sand is also a lot kinder on their feet and bodies (they love to lay down in the sand and/or roll) than frozen mud.

It’s not hard to see the difference from before v. after.  The first photos are from before, and the after photos follow — it’s almost hard now to remember what it was like!  We decided to go with the DG base and sand on top (4″ of both) rather than try something like pea gravel.  I’ve known people in my area that have used pea gravel and after a winter or two they have had quite the mess.  It might work better for those in a drier climate but from what I’ve seen in my area it it a lot higher maintenance than I want to deal with.

new horse footingbo hooves november 2010, sand, horse hooves 102 (Medium)


bo hooves november 2010, sand, horse hooves 138

bo hooves november 2010, sand, horse hooves 156 (Medium)bo hooves november 2010, sand, horse hooves 099

7 comments to Horse care: paddock footing

  • Brett Stephens

    Karen, do you think that would work to dry up our pasture entrances? Pur pastures aren’t muddy except around the gates.

  • I think it would help – we did that at some of our gates and it’s so much nicer when everything is wet.

  • KD

    What a difference! Here in North Florida, I am battling a muddy paddock now in our rainy season. I just started with one load of yellow sand. Prices must be higher here.

  • Susie Niebergall

    I have just DG down in my corrals. It does get abrasive to the horses when they lie down (I provide soft areas of shavings to lie in). In one of the pens we put some sand down and found that it seemed to work down into the DG, mixes in and then doesn’t drain. It gets heavy and holds the moisture. We put it on well condensed DG. What has been your experience with using the combination? What about feeding around the sand?

  • I use porta-grazers, and also have rubber mats in my stalls and outside of the stall doors to reduce the amount of sand that may get tracked in. So far I haven’t had any problem with the materials mixing.

  • Robynne Catheron

    This is so smart! Here in upstate New York iit’s a rainy, mucky mess several times a year. We just had the area behind the barn (all the stalls are open to that area) scraped out, and we’re laying cobbles with small fill on top, which will fill in all the spaces around the larger cobble. I so wish we could use DG, it’s a brilliant idea, but it’s not available here, sadly.
    I heard of this great idea several years ago, and it’s been working perfectly for three years so far. Around and under our main 8′ gate, we dug an area as wide as the gate and about a foot deep, including several feet outside the gate, making sure the hole had straight sides. Then we laid down an old, synthetic (lasts longer than natural fibers) room-sized piece of carpet, which would prevent any gravel from disappearing into the mud. We had five tons of small, round’ish fill brought in, and it filled the space perfectly. It packed down right away, and we’ve never had mud under the gate since.
    I love your idea of DG, and I’m going to continue to search for it. We need it badly!

  • You are right! My horses love the sand footing, they love to lay down in the hot sand to nap. I found cleaning the sand to be more challenging, that’s why I developed the stall sifter. It works well on the small chips the traditional fork cannot pick up. Check out my website

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