Making Informed Choices for Horse Paddock Footing

Updated August 28, 2023
young horse laying down in the sand

There are lots of options for horse paddock footing that change depending on the area where you live. As you look into the options available in your region, consider your horse’s specific needs, the climate and change of seasons, as well as your budget. 

Requirements for Paddock Perfection

While affordability may be the deciding factor, your footing choice should also meet a few other criteria. Things to consider before choosing a surface include:

  • Safety (not too slick, provides good traction, and safe to eat hay from)
  • Easy to pick clean
  • Provides good drainage
  • Minimal dust
  • Comfortable for your horse’s joints
  • Good in all seasons for your area (doesn’t freeze in the winter or it can handle the muddy spring season)

In addition to these requirements, think about your specific barn’s needs. For instance, if you live in Washington where it rains often, you may not need to worry about a footing that gets dusty. In this case, your main concern may be the ability for the footing to drain appropriately and dry quickly so your horses aren’t standing in mud.

Video on Picking the Best Paddock Footing for Horses

Consider Laying a Grid

Along with choosing the footing, your property may benefit from laying a durable grid layer underneath the footing to help control mud, promote drainage, and prevent excessive runoff. Paddock grids are made to support the weight of horses while being permeable. 

It can be filled with pea gravel or other soil.  This makes your initial investment into the footing last much longer. Doing the setup right the first time will save you time and money in the long-run and prevent replacing  footing yearly or bi-yearly.

Help Finding Horse Paddock Footing Options

Keep in mind, your options for paddock footing will vary depending on your geographic location. Different types of footing, such as red clay in Georgia, may only be available in certain regions of the country.

  • Check out other facilities and speak with barn managers in your area. Getting a recommendation from horse owners that have personally used a certain type of footing will be valuable when it’s time to make your decision. 
  • Talk to farriers and get their opinion on footings that provide a good environment for hooves, with or without shoes.
  • Your veterinarian may be another valuable resource as they’ve likely made many farm calls to different properties across the region and have seen what works and what doesn't quite cut it. 
  • Call your county extension agent. They’re a wealth of information on the soil in your area. They should be able to tell you all about the soil’s drainage abilities and may give you some recommendations.
  • Speak with or visit local quarries. They may also be full of valuable information on drainage, hills, and water flow in the area.

The information provided in the Horsemanship Library is based solely on our SmartPak authors' opinions. SmartPak strongly encourages you to consult your veterinarian or equine professionals regarding specific questions about your horse's health, care, or training. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or behavior and is purely educational.