We’ve just had a weekend with over 3 inches of rain (and it is still coming down). For us, that is about 1/5 of our annual rainfall, so that’s a bunch. We are thankful for the great pasture growth that will bring !
When we get so much rain at once, there are puddles all over the place but NOT in our horse’s pens which are located on well drained decomposed granite soil and covered with 3/8 minus round pea gravel. We’ve used pea gravel (pictured above) in our pens for years with great success. That reminded me of a letter I once got from a reader, so I thought this would be a good time to share that letter and my response.
It has been excellent footing, however last week my mare went quite lame and the farrier found a tiny piece of the gravel embedded very deep next to her frog towards the heel. My farrier told me afterwards that he thinks the footing is “very dangerous” and it should not be used without several inches of sand on top. My farrier is very good and has been trusted by everyone in the area for 40 years. I keep my mare’s feet picked clean, but this little rock was so deep we couldn’t reach it without digging into the cleft.
I just cannot imagine you recommending anything that was in any way dangerous for horsekeeping so my question is this: In our new facility we are putting in sacrifice paddocks and I had been planning on surfacing them in the same gravel however now I have doubts.
Was this a freak accident? Is pea gravel the best footing or would you recommend something else?
Thank you very much for your time,
Pea gravel varies greatly according to locale, I can’t see yours, but 3/8-round pea gravel generally poses no danger for a turnout pen or we wouldn’t recommend it.
This is indeed a freak accident as you suggest as in all the years we have used it, recommended it, we have never heard of such an incident.
However there are many instances of horses (whether they live on pasture, in a sawdust bedded stall or in a pen) getting gravel imbedded in the clefts, white line and other areas of the hoof when the hooves are too soft or when the hoof has a problem like thrush, deep clefts, white line disease etc. My husband, Richard Klimesh, has been a farrier for many years and has much experience with hooves and together we feel hooves that are kept clean and dry are the healthiest and that pea gravel is the best all-weather pen surface for drainage and hoof health.
Sand can be a real danger when used in living areas where horses are fed because of the almost certain ingestion of the sand and the high probability of sand colic. The only time we recommend sand is when a horse has been or is laminitic and the veterinarian suggests it for the horse’s comfort.
Each locale and level of management requires different choices of fences, of footing, bedding and so on. So whether you choose to cover over the pea gravel with sand (which is something I would never do) or use pea gravel or another footing in your sacrifice pen will depend on sub-surface drainage, your style of management, your local weather, the health of your horse’s hooves, and other factors which I could not know.