Here in the North Eastern US our environment normally consists of wet, mud, and even very high humidity. All of these factors can lead to feet that are very pliable, prone to flare, thrush, White Line Disease, abscesses, and thin soles. Balance in the environment will help develop a healthier foot and prevent problems. I believe every farm should have a dry lot with good footing, where horses have access to dry abrasive footing on a regular basis.
Every farm needs to have a dry lot (or 2 or 3!). A dry lot is a paddock of any size, big or small, that has no grass, and no mud! Depending on your local climate, this may or may not be easy to create. Materials vary for the construction of the dry lot, and there are pros and cons to many of them. Use of the dry lot may vary depending on the season, and needs of your horse's feet!
The advantages of the dry lot are many, but here are the main points:
- Ability to control the amount of grass your horse is consuming during any given day, season, etc.
- Preservation of your pasture when it is not suitable for grazing (fertilizing, muddy, eaten down, etc).
- Ability to regulate excess moisture and its effects on your horse's feet.
Here are some examples of excellent horse-keeping practices our clients have implemented:
This dry lot is made of 4-6" of stone dust (quarries local to this farm have red colored stone!). The topsoil was scraped off and the stone laid right on top. The area is also well known for these characteristic round boulders that dot the landscape.
This dry lot is made of 4-6" of slag...a material which is the by-product of the steel industry. It's a nice footing material because it's composed primarily of major minerals, and is a poured product so it's rounded pieces (not sharp angular pieces like some stone dust), and does not compact! Be careful where you buy your slag, however, as some mills produce slag which has toxins in it and is not environmentally friendly let alone good for our horses! This slag has been tested and is known to be safe.
The soil at this farm is very sandy so no footing was added, just the grass killed down to the roots and raked away when dead. The horses each have a large stall with an overhang that can be closed off in bad weather.
This dry lot is made of stone dust and slopes away from the barn for good drainage. The horses have access to large open stalls in the barn for shelter from sun or bad weather.
This is a beautiful stone dust dry lot made for Walnut, an IR/Cushings Halflinger. When I first met Walnut he was one of the fattest horses I had ever met, but with the help of his special diet, this perfect dry lot, and some judicious exercise, he has dropped 300lbs and is looking much fitter and trimmer! The stone dust in these pictures had just been laid down and needs to settle a bit so it is a more level surface.
This dry lot is just one of many at Ghost Farm! They were carefully prepared with interlocking grid frames designed to hold in material, thereby preventing washing and ensuring good drainage. Then 1/2-1" stone was laid down over the grids and finally stone dust on top.
This dry lot is actually a series of dry lots interconnecting that give the horses lots of room to move! The footing is all stone dust (although some red and some grey was used based on what was available at the time). The horses have access to the barn overhang and stalls for shelter from sun and weather.
Pea gravel (1/4") is used here as the primary footing. A solid base of 1/2"-1" stone was laid down first, then 8-12" of pea gravel laid over top. The pea gravel needs to be this deep in order for the horses feet to "sink" into the footing, thereby avoiding pinpoint pressure which could cause bruising. While this is a beautiful footing to use, cost typically makes this somewhat impractical when other options are available.