Footing for dry lot or non-grass track

Dorothy Marsh

I have an eight year old mini/small pony with IR. She has had 2 episodes of mild laminitis in 2022.  The second one was because she was doing so well and I got a little cocky and put her into a bigger paddock with some grass a little too long.  She became sound within a few days of removal from grass. 

I’m working with my vet and farrier and I think we are have a good plan.

My biggest dilemma is her paddle can that she shares with another mini—senior, bad teeth, no metabolic issues.  I have been brainstorming trying to figure out how to make her a bigger grassless paddock without breaking the bank and being a horrible amount of physical work. The area in question has a firm hardened creekbank gravel base that I had put in about 15 years ago. Mud is not my problem. Over time residual leftover hay bits and manure have created enough topsoil of perhaps an inch or two that grows grass. It’s sparse—not like a lush true pasture— but it is there. And it’s too much for my little lawnmower, vacuum cleaner, sheep-type-eater  pony. I have tried killing it with the vinegar solution that’s all over the Internet, salt, dragging  it over and over, without what I would consider safe enough for her.  

Some people have suggested covering it with tarps or carpet remnants. That is just not going to work for me. I have some physical limitations and I live in an area where it’s very hard to find hired help for projects like that—carpet, especially, would be heavy to do—particularly disposal.  

I can spend up to $2000 US on this project, but that’s about it.  The best thing I can think of is dragging it over and over again until the grass is pretty much gone, and then covering it with something like some sand, stone dust, a type of gravel that will be OK, etc

Sand would have been my favorite one to go with, but colic concerns in the event she is searching for blades of grass and eats some.  I can feed in a run in stall area, I wouldn’t be feeding on top of the sand. Another option people have brought up is pea gravel. I have heard and read that pea gravel is great for certain areas, but that it’s not good for the horse to be walking on it as their primary paddock footing Because it moves so much. This is just another thought that I have, but I also worry about her not being able to get any traction on a quick turn when she’s playing around and falling down with pea gravel   . So I’m nervous about that. Other gravel products like stone dust would be my next favorite, tIt is very hard to get in my area, and people are telling me it will harden up and it will cause her problems walking on it and standing on it as her primary paddock surface  I don’t know if that is true or the experience of people who have done it on here.  There is a stone product that is a little larger pieces than true stone dust that also come packs similar to stonedust. That’s cheap and easy to get.  People will say not to use small gravel products  with irregular edges because they can get up into the white line of a half wall. So, I’m not sure if that would be safe. I have been thinking about putting that down and then putting an inch or so of sand in one section, and pea gravel in another section to give it some cushion. A varied surface.

What have you done to create a grassless paddock for your po use/horses?

Dorothy Marsh, NY, USA. 2022

billie hinton

Can you use a flame weeder? You can quickly wilt any grass, which should kill it.

Re: the footing, we have used various sizes of stone and screenings in areas around our barn but we have very easy access (12 minutes to quarry where we can get a pick up bed of anything for $25.) It has to be redone periodically but because of our ease of access to get it, that isn’t a big deal.

For a more permanent solution, you might use some of the grids that you then fill with stone. We did that outside both ends of our barn aisle and it has lasted several years with no need to be topped off at all. Horses going in and out over it, wheelbarrows, even our truck periodically. However, grass will grow right up through it. I’m not trying to keep grass out of that area, so it’s not a big deal to me. The flame weeder could probably be used if there is a good layer of stone on the grids, but could also melt them if used too aggressively.

In our paddocks there is a local stone mix called “Chapel Hill grit.” It’s a mix and not very attractive to me, but it gives good traction and has lasted the 17 years we’ve been here and however many more it was here before we bought the farm. There may be something similar local to you - it’s just a sandy stone mix that has fines to medium sized “rock” - not like the stone we get from the local quarry.

Not sure if this helps, but maybe will generate some ideas!

Billie in NC

Billie Hinton
Member since 2010

Eleanor Kellon, VMD


I don't know the cost, but check into outdoor arena footing, e.g. .
Eleanor in PA 
EC Owner 2001
The first step to wisdom is "I don't know."

Trisha DePietro

Hi Dorothy. I have attached a link for your review. I found this link to be extremely helpful as I tried to understand how to create tracks and the different products available for drainage and surfacing. Straightforward and easy to understand. What is important is speaking to a local landscaper/quarry and asking tons of questions about suitable materials and whats available easily in your area of NY.   Tracking surfaces, unfortunately, depending on useage and maintainence are not a "one and done"...each surface will need to be replaced over time. 

Crushed Limestone is a "softer" rock and perhaps might be easily available in your could buy a few bags of it and try it to see how it holds up before investing in a larger surface area....The PSI of a horse or pony hoof is pretty high because of the nature of the 4 legs telescoping down into a smaller surface area. It puts alot of weight in to 4  small spots as compared to the larger body of the horse. If the horse/pony is cantering the PSI ground force goes getting the right surface incorporates alot of factors.  There are many different kinds of sand- there's angular sand, dead sand, septic sand....etc etc. Its enought to make your head spin. 1-2 inches would be plenty of footing over a well drained area.. again, talking to your local contractor is really key. I hope this helps.

   Trisha DePietro Aug 2018
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Deb Walker

Dorothy - When I moved Scotty home with us 5 years ago, I hired a local contractor to scrape up all the grassy area that I had to have fenced in with panels. From there he brought in two loads of crushed limestone which is very prevalent in our area. The last time I added "fill" he couldn't get the super crushed limestone, and I wouldn't recommend the coarser kind. It's a work in process and yes weeds pop up all the time and vinegar does not work. We now have two flame burners so we can both work on it together, but with our heat this summer it's gotten away from me. Scotty doesn't really eat the weeds that come up, but they look bad :)
Deb and Scotty I/R, PPID
Pecatonica Illinois, May 13, 2019
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Dorothy Marsh

Thanks everyone for your info and suggestions. 

I tried an experiment yesterday that I think may work. I had tried dragging an area with a lightweight crappy drag and it wasn’t good enough. I bought a better drag with the poker things on the ends and also added a couple of cinder blocks for extra weight. I hooked it on behind my riding lawnmower and dragged the heck out of a 40 x 100‘ -ish area yesterday.  This would be an extension to the small paddock I have her in now. The two areas combined would be more than double the paddock size she had now. I believe this size would be adequate for her and her companion pony. Companion pony doesn’t have any metabolic issues. He is allowed to go out and graze for part of the day.  I was able to dig up pretty much all the grass. A friend helped me dig up grass along the fence line in a place I hadn’t gotten to yet.  

i’m hoping this might work without having to even add anything on top. I would still like to be able to drag it occasionally, but I think that this would be enough room for them to be moving around enough to keep the grass beat down. There is a little bit of grass stubble in the area where she is now and she handles that fine. She just can’t handle any quantity.

So I am hopeful that I will be able to extend the paddock and have enough room for her and her companion too. In the spring I may put a track in or change things up a bit.

The weed burner is a great suggestion. I may buy one for grass and weeds that are not only along the fence line but those that also pop up in the paddock.  Our grass will pretty much stop growing in a month, so I’m pretty sure I’m going to be able to manage on my own until spring. I really won’t know what I am in for until that time when everything starts growing like crazy again.

Dorothy Marsh, NY, USA. 2022

Jennifer Murphy

I put in a large area of stone dust/pea stone mix (called 3/8 minus in other areas of the country) at my last house and it was awesome.  It stayed level and the pea stone helped provide drainage.  The area was a low spot in front of my run-in shed that had always been a muddy nightmare in the fall and spring.  After I put that mix down I never had mud issues in that area.  In the winter I would shovel the area and the mix would actually thaw in the sun, creating a safe, ice free area.

At my new house I wanted to use the same material for my entire paddock to provide a safe-based dry lot.  The contractor didn't understand what I was asking for, and I came home to a completely stone dust paddock one day.  It's the worst!  It doesn't drain at all, and when it's really wet, it packs inside the mini's hooves and I have to chop it out.  My big bay mule is constantly grey from rolling in it, and when it's in their coat it totally dulls clipper blades.  It still makes muddy areas but definitely not as bad as dirt. If we don't have rain, it becomes extremely dusty.  Some day I'll have enough money to redo the paddock with the proper mix.  If they were only on straight stone dust for a few hours per day, it wouldn't be so bad, but for 24/7 living I would recommend the mix.

For killing grass a really easy method is to cover it with tarps.  They're lightweight, so easy to move, and cheap at places like Job Lots or dollar stores.  It will grow back eventually unless you keep after it.  It's a great starting point, though!
Jennifer in NH

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Dorothy Marsh


Your info about the stone dust-pea gravel mix is interesting. How did you get them mixed, did you have one pile dumped here and one pile dump there and just mix it yourself and spread it out or did it come already mixed? What ratio did you use? How thick?  Thanks  

You’re in New Hampshire so I’m guessing your weather and general climate is similar to mine here in upstate New York. 
Dorothy Marsh, NY, USA. 2022

Sherry Morse

Dorothy this is getting a bit off track for the main group here but you can do a search on 3/8 mix on the Google and find out more.  This is just one link to get you started:,is%20more%20important%20than%20aesthetics.

Dorothy Marsh

I guess I don’t know all the rules yet. Where should I be asking questions like this?
Dorothy Marsh, NY, USA. 2022

Sherry Morse

Oh sorry, I didn't really finish that thought! We try to push things like 'how do I kill the grass' or 'what is the best hay net' and similar to the Horsekeeping group as there's a ton of information over there on most of these types of topics. | Home is the place to sign up for that one if you haven't already.