Monday, April 23, 2012
Pea Gravel for the Barefoot Horse
Pea gravel as stall bedding? While some may think it sounds uncomfortable, it can actually be one of the best forms of stall bedding for the barefoot horse. First, let me explain what pea gravel is. It is the small, round stones often used on playgrounds or landscaping projects. If you were to walk barefoot in pea gravel, it actually is quite comfortable.
Now, I don't keep my horses stalled for a long period of time, but they do spend some time in their stalls each day. What does the pea gravel do? Well, it stimulates the frog and increases blood circulation (as shown in a study by Robert Bowker, VMD, PhD), toughens the sole, and helps to keep the hoof wall worn down, possibly increasing the amount of time your horse can go between trims. If your horse has problems with thrush or seedy toe (white line disease), the pea gravel can help to eliminate it by drying out the hoof. I've seen noticeable changes in my horses' feet since putting the pea gravel in their stalls last year. The horses don't seem to mind it at all, either.
Pea gravel doesn't necessarily have to go in your stalls--it can go in any area of your pasture or paddock where your horse frequents. It can be a little costly up front, but I am convinced that in the long run, it will save money. I've had my pea gravel for over a year and haven't had to replace it yet. It makes cleaning stalls very easy (with a cherry picker) and it drains well. My stalls are never soggy anymore.
Dr. Bowker recommends putting 3-6 inches of pea gravel in your stalls (or other areas) to get the maximum benefits of it. I don't have quite that much and have still seen hoof improvements. Getting another load of pea gravel is on my husband's to-do list, though. I have one more stall that needs the gravel since getting another horse last fall, and I'd like to add more pea gravel to the other stalls.
The only drawback I've noticed with the pea gravel is sometimes finding a tiny rock lodged in one of my horse's hooves. It's never caused a problem, but I'd advise checking your horse's feet routinely to keep them cleaned out.