We are pretty lucky that our barn is located on higher ground and right next to a wooded area that we can use as a dry lot paddock for the horses. It is always dry and has firm footing, even on days when it is rainy. It will provide shade and space for them to walk and move, without getting too much grass or mud. One concern I’ve thought about is that horses can eat the bark off trees, damaging them. But I hope that with enough free choice hay left out for them, they will leave the trees alone. Immediately adjacent to the run-in shed, we are going to have to put in some gravel since that area was freshly graded and is quite muddy! I ordered 20 tons of gravel, as well as this geotextile fabric to lay down under the gravel. I had no idea how much stone I would need, but I called up the local quarry and they were very helpful. If you give them the area of your space and how high you want the gravel, they can advise on tonnage.
The most important step to getting drainage is to make sure the dry lot has a 1-2% slope away from the barn. The topsoil needs to be removed and then the sub-base graded with a slope. Next, you lay down your fabric, then gravel, and lastly the footing layer.
Once the sub-base is graded adequately, the fabric is put down to prevent the gravel from embedding into the ground below. (If the gravel were to get pushed into the soil below, it would be ineffective.) We ran the fabric perpendicular to the flow of water, so the water would run from one layer to the next without getting in between the layers. The water flows away from the barn, and the fabric is overlapped about 6″ under the previous layer. It’s easy to see what I mean in the photo below.
Once the fabric was down it was time for 4″ of gravel on top. I ordered a truck full of 1″- 2.5″ clean stone. Clean stone means there will be no fine particles along with the gravel. This will provide a good base for drainage. One thing to keep in mind, it is helpful to have the gravel and footing material delivered prior to the day your grading contractor will arrive. That way, he can do the grading and spreading all in the same day.
The wind was flapping up the fabric quite a bit, so I enlisted some help and Grading Guy followed closely behind us dropping mounds of gravel to keep the fabric in place too! Oh the dust!
I probably could have used another 10 tons of stone..but we just thinned the gravel out as we got farther from the barn. The downward slope increases there too, so I’m pretty confident the water will run off just fine.
The top footing layer is going to be 3 inches of wood chips. Why? Because we happen to have mounds of wood chips on site. It wouldn’t be the best footing option, but it will work for a year or two until it starts to decompose, at which point we can scrape that layer off and add fresh wood chips. Ideally, you would use a mix of stone dust and sand, or ground limestone – basically, anything that is soft for their hooves and won’t decompose! Limestone has the added benefit that it neutralizes the smell of urine, however, I couldn’t find any limestone quarries nearby. But I’m okay with using wood chips. There is always a better way that costs more money. The wood chips are a great temporary footing until we get the funds to upgrade. It looks great, fit into our budget and the horses will have happy feet on here!