Horse Basics

Bedding

Wood pellets keep the amount of wood product low that you will be purchasing, transporting, collecting and putting in the compost bin. They are highly absorbent, low in dust, provide cushion, and compost rapidly. Do not use pellets made from wood containing glue or toxins.

Check out this fact sheet for more information on alternative bedding

Arenas

Conservation districts do not design outdoor or covered riding arenas. Here’s a couple of sources for constructing arena information:

Riding Arena Footing Material Selection and Management

Under Foot: The U.S. Dressage Federation Guide to Arena Construction, Maintenance and Repair

Footing

All paddock footing materials have advantages and some disadvantages. You can select one type of footing material or have areas of different materials. The most lasting and least maintenance footing is ⅝ minus gravel. This is ideal around high traffic areas such as stall entrances, gates, and watering troughs. Materials such as washed coarse sand allow the horse to roll and lie down. Hog fuel or wood chips allows the horse to roll and lie down but breaks down like other organic materials and needs to be replaced every two to three years. If your horse has a hoof condition that requires special treatment, consult with your veterinarian and/or farrier before selecting a footing.

Horse Health

See Footing, Pasture Management and Renovation, Composting

All best management practices contribute to maintaining sound hoofs, eliminating disease carrying pests, preventing colic and founder, and maintaining body temperatures (Think of body heat draining cold mud.)

Housing

Horse housing can be as simple as a three sided lean-to that faces away from the wind and opens into a confinement area with good winter footing. Ideally, any barn will have stalls that give the horse access to an outside run with good footing. This has advantages to the horse in terms of movement and respiratory health. It may also reduce use of bedding if the horse urinates outside. Whatever type of housing used, it should have gutters, downspouts and outlets that direct roof water away from the confinement area. It should also be placed so that surface water does not enter the building. Underground drainage may need to be deployed around existing buildings. Outdoor lighting is important for chores. Finally, buildings should be placed in such a way as to provide access for loading and unloading horses, equipment, hay and other raw materials. If you have plans to build, run your design by an SCD engineer to be sure all water issues have been considered.

Pests

Pests can be any insect, animal or plant that is unwanted. Usually, we’re talking about flies, mosquitoes, and vermin.

Concerning insects, try to take advantage of natural insect predators. Barn swallows, violet green swallows and bats consume thousands of flies, no see ums and mosquitoes. There are ways to accommodate barn swallows and keep them out of key areas. Violet green swallows require a birdhouse and do not enter buildings. A bat house may attract more bats. Keep manure and wasted hay picked up and placed in compost bins and covered near the barn. Harrow pastures to spread and dry out manure droppings. Prevent mud in horse paddocks with good footing. These measures prevent fly larvae from using manure and mud as a hatchery. Do not allow pools of water to stand in buckets, old tires, trash, broken gutters etc. This prevents mosquitoes from developing. Consider the purchase of insect predators that feed on fly larvae.

Keep the areas around buildings mowed or weed wacked to prevent giving cover from predators to rodents. Keep clutter and piles of stuff to a minimum that provide vermin shelter. Keep feed in rat proof containers. If vermin are still a problem after prevention, consider careful use of rodenticides in ways that prevent unintended victims such as cats and dogs.