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Hi Cherry,

We moved with our ponies onto a five acre hobby farm which was previously a dairy operation.  There is a large cement yard around the barns causing a lot of wasted space. It would be a perfect winter/sacrifice area for spring though, the barn shelters the north and west sides. I was wondering if there would be anyway to cover this? A base layer of gravel with sand on top? How deep? Ripping it out is not an option, and I don’t like the idea of horses on concrete.  Wondering if you have any suggestions? Thanks,

Allison

Hi Allison,

Well of course I have to go on the record that my suggestion would be removing the concrete but I realize the effort, expense it would take and that you said removal is not an option.

By the way, what you have are concrete pads, not cement. Concrete is comprised of cement (a fine powder), aggregate (sand, stones) and water. It is sometimes reinforced with steel mesh or bars (rebar). When concrete is poured it is agitated and worked so the large pieces of aggregate settle somewhat leaving a sand/cement mixture on top to form a smooth surface. Concrete is one of man’s most durable building materials and it can be a major undertaking to remove it, especially if it is reinforced with steel.

So here are some other things you probably have already considered or have even done by now.

Using the concrete as is for eating areas would be OK, but if the ponies would also be required to use them as loafing areas, standing for long periods of time and/or laying down or rolling, then concrete pads would not be good for the long term for obvious reasons of abrasion and discomfort. However, concrete covered with rubber mats might make a super nice feeding area which would be more comfortable than bare concrete and easy to keep sanitary (as long as the ponies don’t urinate there).

If the areas will be used for loafing, then covering the concrete pads with rubber mats or rolled rubber flooring could work. Another option would be covering the concrete with road base, which is a mixture of gravel and dirt and then a layer of a well-draining fine gravel such as decomposed granite (which is what I would use here in the western US) could work.  Note that if your ponies use the area as a toilet (which they most likely will do) then you will have to diligently manage moisture, odor and sanitation. With a situation like this, whether it is in stalls or outdoor pads, you should plan on an annual overhaul. Perhaps this is something you can do if you only use it seasonally.

You asked about gravel and sand. Gravel on concrete could be like walking on ball bearings and would be tough on hooves and not much more comfortable than plain concrete. It would allow somewhat for drainage of urine, especially if the pads are sloped away from the barn which I imagine they are.

Sand is also a risky choice if the area would be a place you would feed the ponies as sand colic would be a problem if they ingested sand with any hay that fell out of their feeders, for example.

No easy answer. Please reply to this blog and let us know what you have done or are planning to try.

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Hi Cherry,
I have an quarter horse mare that I just bought she is the sweetest thing in the world, she is at the stables where I keep my other horse the owner sold us the other too and perfectly healthy,my quarter I was testing her and noticed that her thighs and back legs are very swollen I know for an fact that she has not been out for one month so due of being in her stall for so long I am pretty sure that is the problem. Also when I made her trot she was limping but her hoofs are very long and broken that will be fixed this week. I will exercise her every day  and i massage her legs, someone said that it never goes away I am not sure about that. It is cold now and the barn is not heated so I do not want to put cold water on her legs can I do cold compresses and the then wipe her dry?
When she walks she does not limp only when she trots what are your suggestions on that?
I just want to know if this stays for the rest of her life or with exercise and taking her out it will go away she is not in pain
Thank you so much
Monika

Hi Monika,

There was a salty and sweet vet that I worked with once that used to look at a horse like yours and say, “All she needs is fresh air and exercise.”

A horse that has not been out of her stall for a month will “stock up” which is a horseman’s way of saying “swell in the legs”. Some horses stock up if they don’t receive daily exercise. All horses should have either free daily exercise (turnout in a large area where they can run and buck and roll) or daily exercise such as longeing or riding.

But before you even think about exercising the horse, she needs hoof care. All horses should have their hooves attended to (trimmed or shod) every 6-8 weeks. When a horse’s hooves have become so long as to begin cracking and breaking off, it is way past due for the horse to have farrier care.

When a horse limps at the trot, that means the horse IS in pain – it hurts to put its weight on that hoof or limb.

So my suggestions are to get the horse hoof care immediately, keep her on a 6-8 week hoof care program per your farrier’s recommendation and exercise her daily.

Then your sweet horse will be comfortable and will last you a lot longer.

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Hi Cherry,

I have 8 year old Appaloosa mare which I owned for 4 years. She is a willing, easy going mare but a little on the spooky side though. I have just moved her from the farm she has lived on since birth (paid to board her there) to my place. I also have my friend’s horse stabled with her who was also from the same farm and was stalled beside her.

My problem is she is kicking her stall. I’m at a lost at the cause. I thought the cause is out of frustration but not sure. She did kick her stall some at the farm too but not at this degree. I’m afraid she is going to hurt herself if I don’t figure out the cause. I can watch her go right into it. She will pin her ears back and tuck in her chin, back up to the stall wall then kick repeatedly. It can progressive get worse if left on her own vice until she’s satisifed.

I’ve had to do repairs to her stall I know. I can prevent her from kicking if I catch her at the right moment. It takes several corrections but she will stop except I can’t be there everytime. If she allowed do it, she will kick up to 5ft to 6ft up the stall wall.

I thought the cause was from frustration at being stalled at night but she does it when she allow to run in/out of her stall too. I haven’t been feeding her very much grain about 1/2lb a day but has free access to hay. I haven’t been working her too much to allow her to settle in. She has a acre paddock that she and the other horse to run in which she out in it at least 1/2 the day.

Have any suggestions what I can do?

KC

Dear KC,

A behavior like this is a stall vice since it is occurs in the horse’s living environment irrespective of the presence of people or handling. It is usually a response to management or confinement. With all such vices, you need to eliminate all potential causes some of which you have already mentioned and it sounds like you are aware of, but for sake of completeness, here is a checklist:

Be sure the horse is getting ample exercise in the form of purposeful work.

Be sure the horse is getting ample turnout time alone and with other horses if compatible and safe.

Make sure the horse’s ration is appropriate for the level of work.

Check to see if there is an issue with neighboring horses, that is, if the kicking occurs when a particular horse is nearby.

Since this is a mare, observe the occurrence of stall kicking in relation to her estrous cycle.

Once you’ve evaluated the above and taken necessary measures, I’d suggest getting the mare back into her normal work schedule.

I’ve posted an article on stall kicking on my website that might give you some more insight and ideas, but most of these repetitive behaviors disappear once a horse is given enough exercise and something else to occupy them.

Best of luck. I’d like to hear how things progress with your mare and I welcome comments and suggestions from readers – just click on Leave a Comment at the end of this post.

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Dear Cherry,


What is the best kind of flooring to have in a stall? We are building a new horse barn and want to know about the stall floor to make it as easy to keep clean as possible. The stalls will be 10ft. by 16ft. the stalls will be used to feed and hold a horse for foaling.

Thanks for your time.
Debbie

Hi Debbie,
I prefer interlocking rubber mats over decomposed granite or another well-draining, well packed base. I bed with shavings normally but use bright oat straw for foaling.
Cherry Hill

Stablekeeping, A Visual Guide to Safe and Healthy Horsekeeping by Cherry Hill


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Here’s a handy way to keep your stall mats in place, excerpted from the book Stablekeeping, by Cherry Hill and Richard Klimesh, who designed the anchors.

Do your stall mats shift and bulge? Here’s a simple way to make horse-proof anchors that will help keep even a four-corner junction in place.

Illustration from Stablekeeping

by Cherry Hill & Richard Klimesh

Why they’re handy:
Stall mats, especially those thinner than 3/4 inch, have a tendency to bulge along seams and intersections of corners. Bulging corners can be chewed or pawed by horses, and the uneven surface makes cleaning the mats more difficult. With their rounded stake heads, these anchors sit tightly against a mat, allowing a broom, shovel or hoof to slide over them without catching the edge of the mat.

Materials:

  • 1/4-inch diameter steel rod approximately 12 to 18 inches long (the softer the soil, the longer the rod)
  • 1/4-inch steel washer
  • 1 1/2-inch diameter fender washer with a 5/16-inch center hole. (Fender washers are relatively thin and have a large outer diameter compared to a small center hole; available at hardware and auto stores.)
  • 1-inch-diameter pipe (See step 2).

Instructions:
1. Weld the 1/4-inch washer flush with the end of the rod and then weld the fender washer on top of the smaller washer. Weld the center hole of the fender washer and two or three spots around the smaller washer on the underside.

2. To round the head, insert the stake through a piece of 1-inch diameter pipe so the head of the stake sits flat on the pipe. Bend the perimeter of the large washer down over the edge of the pipe using light taps with a hammer. (Always wear eye protection whenever striking metal with a hammer.) Remove the stake from the pipe.

3. Clean out debris from under the corners of the mats so they lie flat and even. Insert the mat stake between the corners of the mats and use a hammer to drive it to the surface of the mats. Keep the stake vertical so the head will sit level.

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