Outdoor horse area footing

Asked July 8, 2020, 1:24 PM EDT

Hello, I have a 2500 sqft outdoor horse paddock area. It’s slightly sloped and currently a hard, sticky clay. With even the slightest amount of moisture it binds terribly to the horses hooves. My thoughts were geo fabric and small gravel, small gravel over clay no fabric, or organic material. What do you recommend for dealing with the clay? What are the options for organic materials? I’m in Oregon City, Clackamas County

Clackamas County Oregon

1 Response

Hello. You have several options. It all depends upon how much you can spend. The best option, which costs the most initially, but lasts for a long time is a combination of layers. 7 years ago we did a research project at the OSU Horse Center regarding paddock footing. This layering system is still holding strong and hasn't had to have anything done to it or anything added. This layering system is geofabric right over the clay. On top of the geofabric is approximately 4-6 inches of 3/8 minus gravel. That was packed and then turkey grit was the top/final layer. Turkey grit is similar in size to pea gravel but the rocks are 'mis-shapen' so they don't roll and move out from under a person or horse like pea gravel does. This layering system is actually the most economical in the long run.
Another option is to just put 3/8 minus gravel on top of the clay. The gravel needs to be placed on the clay before the clay gets wet. So I would recommend putting the gravel on the clay right now. The 3/8 minus packs down really well and will reduce the mud. We use 3/8 minus in all of our gate areas and it packs down and seldom gets muddy. The key it to put the 3/8 minus on while the clay is dry. If you wait and put the gravel on wet clay it just gets eaten up by the clay.
You could even use the geofabric with 3/8 on top and no turkey grit. Sand also works you just won't be able to feed in there as you don't want horses eating off of sand as this can increase the chance of sand colic.
I would not recommend organic material such as wood chips or hogs fuel as that just decomposes and makes things even muddier and slick. And you have to add it quite often.
If you would like me to send you the write up from the research project let me know and I would be happy to send that. You can email me directly at the email listed below.