Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pea Gravel!

If you are a long time reader of this blog you know the difficulties I've had over the years with our water stations. We have a "mudder" at our farm.

"Ummm, I am the Sovey-boy, and I sure do like the mud."

In horse racing, when a horse does well in rainy, mucky, mud races, they're called "mudders". Not all horses like to run in mud. Some horses, like our Foggy, are positively dainty and do not like stepping in mud ever. 

But, full brother Sovereign LOVES the mud. Click the photo below to see a video of Sovereign (racing name Suave Lord) winning a race in the mud at Philadelphia Park. This race was run on November 20, 2007 and at the beginning of the video you can see me pan to the track conditions in the top right corner. Conditions are listed as "muddy"!!! The whole video is grey in color because it was pouring rain. Naturally.

Since his arrival in February of 2009 Sovereign has continually dumped our pasture water buckets. He loves to swim and puts his foot in the bucket and splashes his belly. Then, seeing that the water is muddy from his foot, he finishes off the bucket by completely dumping it. We have a swim tub for him which keeps him happy, but if that is empty at any time during the day because of previous swimming, he resorts to swimming in the watering troughs. Looking back over my blog I see many entries when I devise a new "perfect" system to keep him out of the water. None ever worked. We moved the buckets around and even raised them up high into hideous blue barrels like the one below. Ugh.

There are horses who drink neatly out of pasture buckets and leave their water station tidy. Then there is Sovey. At least he is adorable!

It doesn't help that I am obsessed with clean water and clean buckets. I empty and scrub all buckets daily which adds to the problem because of frequent dumping. Obviously, I pull the buckets out and away from the pastures, but ultimately the water runs back toward the lowest, muddiest point. We have permanent water pumps and electric for winter's heated buckets at each station so moving the troughs too far away was not an option.

Before the pea gravel, our water stations looked like this - a typical day in October. Summer looked much worse because hot temperatures encourage many swims by our little swimmer boy. Needless to say, this situation was not healthy for hooves or dispositions. Foggy positively hated getting a drink. Poor honey.

I knew I wanted pea gravel but I couldn't just have a truckload dumped at our water holes because mud and high traffic would suck it all down and away within a few weeks. Brian told me that I needed to prepare a base just like you do if you are making a driveway. So I found an excellent paving company, Locust Point, and told them about my problem. We came up with a plan!

First they dug out a huge rectangular area and hauled away the dirt. You can see some of the exposed dirt in the corner of the rectangle above to get a sense of the depth. Next, they filled the hole with ballast for good drainage.

Then a layer of modified was rolled. I don't have a photo of that layer because I headed out on Foggy for a ride. (And - fun side note - Foggy was amazing even with all the commotion. At one point we were right beside the pasture and a dump truck was unloading the ballast. These stones are huge and rumble and shake the ground when they are dropped. Foggy never flinched! My mom was with me and we just stood there in awe of his composure. I was able to take photos and fiddle around with zero reins. What a horse!)

Anyway, no photo but the middle layer is modified stone which was rolled to keep it compact. The top layer is four inches of pea gravel. The term "pea gravel" refers to the size of the rock rather than the type of rock. Pea gravel is pea sized and allows for good drainage while being comfortable on horse hooves. In addition, frequent trips to the water station should provide some natural wear on the hooves. I am interested to hear what our farrier notices in the coming months.

I am thrilled with the results! Sovey has dumped the buckets many times already and the water just disappears. I, too, have scrubbed and emptied all the buckets easily with no residual water. Pie and Sovey paw and play like crazy in the stone. I hope the novelty wears off soon because they make a total mess of the area. Sweet, reserved, mannerly Foggy required a two day training session to make sure he was actually walking on the surface and could use the water buckets. Now, all is well and everyone is drinking.

The paving contractors were there to witness our clown Pie's first dive into the pea gravel. They said to me that day "His feet were straight up in the air!" as they described his antics. And just now I got a text from them:

"We are still laughing about how that horse was rolling around in the stone. I have never seen anything like that. We told my mom and she was laughing so hard. He looked exactly like how our dogs roll around in the yard and the other two were staring at him like what are you doing?!"

To see these three characters in action click the photo above. No rolling in this video, but you can see Sovey and Foggy racing around the pea gravel with their initial suspicion. Not Pie - he dives right in typical, uninhibited fashion!


  1. I love their different reactions to the new pea gravel! And a water loving horse, how fun must that be to watch him :)

    1. Hi Allison - I bet Shy would love to come roll and play in this new "sandbox". It is fun to watch Sovey - now - because I don't have to look at all that mud!

  2. Pea gravel is great stuff - great to roll on, conforms well for napping - without making hock sores - and is also great for developing strong hooves.

    1. Good to know - I can't wait to see napping! Pie will surely be the first...probably snoring too!

  3. Love the video and the pea gravel. We need to get the same thing done here. We've hired three contractors over the last two years and not one has yet to show up to do the work! We'll have to keep looking and hiring contractors until one decides he needs a job. We need the whole perimeter of the catch pen done where they hang out in the winter and eat from their hay nets. It winds up being a muddy mess.

    Got a kick out of your mudder. We had a horse once ,Lifeguard, a paint who would actually break an ice puddle with his hoof and then roll in the water blanket and all. Couldn't get him to walk through a puddle while riding him though, he'd rather jump them. He was a character like your boy.

    1. We lucked out with our contractor. Good luck finding one - so worth it! I love the story about Lifeguard - sounds like Sovey!

  4. Oh oh oh!!!!! Laz LOVED his pea gravel's sooooooo comfie for them to stand and yes, roll/lay on!! it will help their feet tremendously and we never had a problem w/ it over winter, their weight crunching on it helped it staying unclumped/unfrozen. ENJOY!!!

    1. Thanks Kristen - we heard that it works great in ice - love that Laz gives it the nod!

  5. Nice come from behind win for Sovey! He was going away on that one.

    Congrats on the new pea gravel patch. Looks comfy as well as tidy. ;D

    1. Hilarious Sovey - better late than never!

      Guess you and sweet Val don't need such silliness as pea gravel with all your fabulous drainage in the sand. I know you struggle with dry conditions - why can't we have it all?!

  6. That's The Best Sight Ever Jules! Very interested In Learning How That Wears, With IbaSE Rock. Looks
    Fabulous, And Could
    Be Just The Trick For

    Sauvie Prankster!

    When i
    Had My Pea Gravel For Pantz And WA(At
    The Trouble Barn)
    They Rolled And
    sleapt in It...It Didn't Freeze Under 20 Inches Of Snow, They
    Wer e The Only
    Horses Able To Move
    Around For 2Weeks

    I Just Had Borders
    Made, To Keep It
    From Rolling Away.
    There Was Just A
    Thick Fabric Barrier
    Under My 5 Inches Of Pea.

  7. You All Are Going To Be SOO Happy!!!!

    1. Thanks Kacy - I thought of you when we had this done because I remember you having that at the other barn. I knew you loved pea gravel and Wa loved it too so I thought my boys would!

  8. Nice come from behind win for Sovie! What a good boy--and a character to boot. Silly guy-there's always one who had to play in the water. Looks like you've got the problem solved--very nice.

  9. I love pea gravel! I love that it is small and roundy and uniform and that it looks so nice and that you can practically walk barefoot on it without getting hurt! I did not know it was also so handy for constructing The Perfect Watering Hole! The design is so nifty! I can imagine the doggie-like roly polies one bit! Hah! Lilly likes water too--maybe if she were an TB she'd be a mudder! Are Tbs ever painted in color? Is that a ridiculous question? LOVED the video! Most excellent Suave Lord!
    On another note, I too am sad to see October go. We had such a beautiful October this year. Alas, November is a new month!

  10. Your opinions are quite interesting, I enjoy reading what you write. Hope to hear more from you. Gravel supplier


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