Footings for turn out area


I'd like a recommendation on the type of gravel that I should top my turn out paddock with. There is already a 1 foot base that had some bigger pieces of stone in it and some finer gravel. Most of it was placed by the previous owner of the property. It's a bit muddy around the edges in the winter when we get lots of rain. The mud is probably from organic matter that has collected over time.  About 3 years ago I added 1/2" minus crusher dust  (manufactured fines) over a lower section on the advice from the quarry owner that this is what he sells to all the horse people.  Over the last 3 years the bigger pieces of the crusher has come to the surface and they have sharp edges - like crusher products will. My 2 horses can be tender footed on it in the summer, but they seem fine in the winter. Except that my younger mare got a stone bruise on her back heel last winter from running around and playing on it. My older horse is probably pre-cushings (he tested in the normal range, but has a lot of the symptoms). He walks tenderly on the current surface at this time of the year and he can't go out on grass  right now (too much sugar) so he's in boots.

I have 3 options:

1) 3/8" minus crusher dust - which I'm told will pack hard. I looked at it and it seems to have a very low percentage of the larger pieces and is mostly the "fines". But I'm worried that the bigger pieces will work their way to the top like the 1/2" minus did.  They use this stuff for topping bicycle/walking trails in my area and those trails look uniformly smooth.
2) 1/8" crusher sand - this stuff won't pack. I think it's a bi-product of  stone crushing, but it looks like course sand. It will have sharp edges, but the pieces are small.
3) Birds eye gravel - this is the really small rounded stones that comes from a river bed. I'd guess that the biggest pieces are no more than 1/4". It won't pack either.

My main criterion is that the horses can walk comfortably on it all year and that it's good for their hooves. But it would also be nice if it drains well, although there is a slight slope from one end of the paddock to the other, so the rain can run off the top.

Oh - my older gelding has been barefoot for about 3 years now - since he first started showing signs of laminitis with the seasonal rise. My younger mare has never had shoes.


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