Best footing for horse shed with run

I haven’t seen a recent discussion on this topic, so thought I would open a new one. I will be moving to a boarding facility in Colorado with shed/runs. The footing is dirt, which is pretty hard when dry but then muddy after it snows or rains. I would like to add footing on top of the dirt. My ideal criteria:

  1. Has to drain well. Don’t want a lake in my run.
  2. Good traction. Minimize the chance of slipping
  3. Has to be safe to eat off of. I don’t want to risk sand colic
  4. Comfortable to stand/run around/lay on. Don’t want sore feet or hock sores
  5. Not terribly dusty when it’s very dry out (probably the lowest priority)

I am hopeful that there is an option that meets these reasonably well, though from what I have heard there isn’t a perfect solution. What has worked well for you? Just as importantly, what has definitely NOT worked for you? Thank you!

We use gravel screenings in our run in and dry lot with over head lean- to. Because it is on a slope we do have some run off when it rains and it never gets muddy, it dries up super fast and stays firm.

My farrier also said gravel screenings are great for the feet. I would look into it if it is available in your area. It is also cheaper than rock or gravel and it is small (no big pieces, no rocks)and compacts immediately.

Well, you’re probably not going to find anything that meets all of those criteria. Stone dust will work for most but not sure it’s “comfortable” to lay on. My horses often do, but they choose dirt, grass or my arena over the stone dust when they can.

But dirt and sand won’t work on your list either. I’d go with stone dust and you could put mats down for them to lie on if you find they don’t lie on the stone.

I am hoping you clear any additions with the barn owner.

My horse has a large dry lot run (about 50 x 90 ft). The barn owner will only allow more ‘clean’ dirt…no sand, no gravel. What I did (that they allowed) was build a pad of rubber mats (about 10 x 12) where she eats. It is not sheltered. She does have a run-in shelter in the back of her pen.

I use shavings or stall pellets under the mats to keep them from disappearing into the mud. The underneath layer does need to be re-done every couple of years but this works well. While all the other horses are standing in mud, she is at least high and dry while eating. I also have mats in her shed so she has a couple choices to be out of the mud. I also give my horse a bed of stall pellets and/or shavings. That prevents hock sores for her.

Mind you, we live in high desert. This year I think I only dealt with about 2 months of heavier mud. We typically only get about 12-13 inches of rain a year of which most comes December—February. So my mud may be nothing like your mud :grinning:.


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For drainage with any type of footing put geotextile (like they put down under roads) down first.

I can’t think of any one footing that will work for all your needs. Other posters have good ideas. Could you put the “feeding station” in one area and sand in a non eating area?

Colorado certainly has different climates.

You will need to find out what is allowed if you don’t own the property.

With that said, here is what I would do if I could control the situation. Deep bedding in the stall to provide a space for the horse to lay down, roll. Mats in an area for outdoor feeding when the weather allows. Pea gravel or rock dust or some type of firm dry, but well draining space for the horse to move over. Possibly an area of sand, but only if you are able to NOT feed on this space.

Pea gravel may be more difficult to keep mucked out without loosing bits of it each time you pick up a pile of poo. Sand may end up being too dusty or get blown/washed away by the weather. Stone dust packs well. When wet, you can see a foot print, when dry it is very hard unless you harrow or rake it. I have stone dust and have not noticed them being sore when on it during out hot, dry times in the summer. I will say that they COMPLETELY avoid the unimproved area of the sacrifice lot and will only used the improved footing area during WET conditions. Build a dry spot and they will use it.

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I’ve only very rarely seen a horse lay down in a run in. Most go in to get away from heat/rain/wind but most horses prefer to sleep in the open. I wouldn’t worry about hock sores as most horses will choose a spot in the dirt outside instead.

Thanks, everyone! The barn seems ok with me adding different footing to the top of the existing dirt, so all good there.

It sounds like the crusher dust may be the way to go. I could leave small area without in case she wants to lay on dirt instead, and could also add shavings to the shed. I think putting a mat where the hay would be is a good idea too.

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