Figuring Out Footings

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Hand-in-hand with the shelter requirements for the fall/winter is putting down some type of footing. This would be for winter paddocks, confinement areas or high traffic points such as gates or watering points. The purpose of  footing material is to build up an area and keep your horse out of the mud. Use of a footing decreases the amount of mud created and allows surface water to drain through–good things for your horse, for chore efficiency and for the environment. In our new place in southern Idaho, we are working with clay soils. So far this summer they are dusty, like cake flour or talcum powder. But when you add water–watch out! They turn to boot-sucking goo. So getting the right type of footing to cover the native soil will be important for a mud-free, chore efficient winter.

Many products can be used for footing but two main types exist: gravel products (including sand and crushed rock) or hogfuel.  If you are in the market for footing on your horse place here are some considerations:

Hogfuel 

Hogfuel, generally available in areas with a lumber industry, is made from chipped stumps or branches and is very useful as a footing in a paddock, both for the horse and the environment. The natural composting process of the wood contributes to the breakdown of the nitrogen in the horse’s urine and manure. This process helps keeps harmful runoffs from being released into the environment and keeps the confinement area from having unpleasant urine or ammonia odors

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Written by:

Alayne Blickle, a lifelong equestrian and ranch riding competitor, is the creator/director of Horses for Clean Water, an award-winning, internationally acclaimed environmental education program for horse owners. Well-known for her enthusiastic, down-to-earth approach, Blickle is an educator and photojournalist who has worked with horse and livestock owners since 1990 teaching manure composting, pasture management, mud and dust control, water conservation, chemical use reduction, firewise, and wildlife enhancement. She teaches and travels North America and writes for horse publications. Blickle and her husband raise and train their mustangs and quarter horses at their eco-sensitive guest ranch, Sweet Pepper Ranch, in sunny Nampa, Idaho.

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