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Railroad Ties dangerous?

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  • Railroad Ties dangerous?

    We are looking to use railroad ties as erosion control between our barn/paddock area. Has anyone ever used them for this purpose? My husband read somewhere that the creosote can leech into the pastures and harm the horses, does anyone know if th at is true? Any advice/tips would be great!

  • #2
    I've seen them as jumps in fields that horses graze (when not in use for competition) so they're not entirely uncommon.
    http://www.clarkdesigngrouparchitects.com/index.html - Lets build your dream barn

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    • #3
      We use some for posts and no, they won't leach and poison your horses.

      Used for erosion control, they will work peachy, but you will have mice and so snakes live wherever you put them.
      Snakes here means almost always rattlers.

      We quit using them laying down on the ground because of that, especially where horses will be roaming and may put their nose or a hoof down close to the railroad ties.

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      • #4
        consider that old horse books suggest to paint wooden surfaces in a barn with creosot to keep the horses from chewing, I would not be too worried.
        Originally posted by BigMama1
        Facts don't have versions. If they do, they are opinions
        GNU Terry Prachett

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        • #5
          Have them at the farm around the field gateways, separating grass from walkway. No problems with them at all.

          But I have heard some horror stories. An arena was bordered by RR ties, and a horse, doing flatwork, nicked his hind hoof on one. He ended up with a cut in his coronary band and some soreness. The horse healed okay and went on to compete at upper levels for years (incl. Rolex). But, in retirement, he developed chronic lameness in a hind leg, nearly crippled for over a year. Turns out it was an abscess of epic proportions, and a piece of that splinter (10 yrs ago!) had created a golf-ball-sized piece necrotic tissue within the foot. Freak accident, but makes me reluctant to edge an arena with such a wooden border.
          “A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.”
          ? Albert Einstein

          ~AJ~

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          • #6
            Originally posted by EventerAJ View Post
            Have them at the farm around the field gateways, separating grass from walkway. No problems with them at all.

            But I have heard some horror stories. An arena was bordered by RR ties, and a horse, doing flatwork, nicked his hind hoof on one. He ended up with a cut in his coronary band and some soreness. The horse healed okay and went on to compete at upper levels for years (incl. Rolex). But, in retirement, he developed chronic lameness in a hind leg, nearly crippled for over a year. Turns out it was an abscess of epic proportions, and a piece of that splinter (10 yrs ago!) had created a golf-ball-sized piece necrotic tissue within the foot. Freak accident, but makes me reluctant to edge an arena with such a wooden border.

            freaky but I bet that could have been anything...
            Originally posted by BigMama1
            Facts don't have versions. If they do, they are opinions
            GNU Terry Prachett

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            • #7
              I researched this when I was looking for something to edge my arena with. What I came up with is that yes, RR ties are treated with some heavy duty stuff when they are new--I wish I could remember the specifics of what is actually contained in the creosote. However, the used RR ties that you buy are usually very old and most of the treatment has worn away. Still, you should not use RR ties to edge a vegetable garden, or for a structure for children to play on. To be extra cautious, I probably wouldn't put them within a pasture area where the horses could chew on them (though I doubt they would and I know many instances where they are on other farms and have never heard of a problem).
              www.plainfieldfarmky.com

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              • #8
                I grew up in the day where using creosote on fence posts was the norm - it kept the posts from rotting in the ground, and made the posts last almost forever. Creosote was used to coat/soak any lumber that you wanted weather-proofed, and it worked for that purpose very well.

                I've personally never heard of a horse becoming sick or poisoned because of creosote....I think the product was banned due to the carcinogen to humans in the manufacturing process. I would have no concerns about using the railroad ties - and in fact have them on my property as boarders around sheds, etc.

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                • #9
                  The barn I ride at has two large outdoor arenas defined by RR ties, and jumps made of them, sitting in a raised area in a 'U' formed by pasture, meaning everything drains away from those rings into pasture. There are also a few cross country jumps in that pasture made of ties. They've been there for forty some years, and I expect they were on the railroad bed for at least that long before. Many, many horses have passed through that pasture and shown no ill effects. I would guess that as 2foals said, any potentially damaging amounts of creosote were long gone before the ties made it to the farm. That'd probably be the case with any ties you'd buy.
                  Yellow jackets just LOVE them though.
                  bar.ka think u al.l. susp.ect
                  free bar.ka and tidy rabbit

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                  • #10
                    I was always taught that they were, but here's what the North Carolina horse council has to say...

                    http://www.nchorsecouncil.com/NewsletterVol5Iss2.htm

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                    • #11
                      Thanks for the link -- good info, NC always has a great horse program.

                      RE: dangers, "creosote" originally was a coal tar byproduct from coke ovens, and in frequent contact the other chemicals could be carcinogenic. The amount you or your horse or the environment can get from used (or even new, they're legal for the RR to use!) is trivial.

                      I don't like to use CCA or other treated woods in direct horse contact because they seem to taste salty and the horses chew more on them. Ingestion is not recommended! When we use them, they're in ground contact/flush so the horses can't chew. Even then, you'll see them licking the fresh stuff.

                      I also caution about using RR ties or other splintery wood products any place a horse can step on them. I know we've done it successfully for years, but as the earlier post notes there can be problems. And I don't know it for sure, but I've heard that Dorothy Crowell missed the 1996 Olympics partly because Molokai got a splinter/foot injury from a RR tie around a dressage ring.

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                      • #12
                        Looking at the big, broad picture, I wouldn't sweat it too much. Yes, they're treated (or used to be) with creosote, but by the time they are retired and become available to us for making jumps, landscaping, etc. most of that creosote has polluted some other place.

                        They're inexpensive, and only wind up being burned or dumped in a landfill if they don't get second jobs, so in the grand scheme of things I think giving them a new home is probably a net "plus" for the planet.
                        Click here before you buy.

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                        • #13
                          Just do not put the left overs or old ones in a burn pile. I paid a medical claim for a man that put some old ones in a burn pile. He went into respiratory failure, spent over a month in the hospital before he died of organ failure. The smoke is apparently pretty toxic.
                          Oh, well, clearly you're not thoroughly indoctrinated to COTH yet, because finger pointing and drawing conclusions are the cornerstones of this great online community. (Tidy Rabbit)

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by SonnysMom View Post
                            Just do not put the left overs or old ones in a burn pile. I paid a medical claim for a man that put some old ones in a burn pile. He went into respiratory failure, spent over a month in the hospital before he died of organ failure. The smoke is apparently pretty toxic.
                            The ashes are also toxic -- at least according to the rendering truck driver who picked up my neighbor's pony several years ago. He'd had to pick up a load of calves that had access to a pile of ash from burned railroad ties, licked at the ashes and died. He said something about arsenic poisoning...

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                            • #15
                              k. I am lol and AJ knows why.

                              My dad used creosote on EVERYTHING. Nice to know I won't suffer any ill effects.

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                              • #16
                                Wow. Good to know about burning and the ashes. Never thought about that.

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                                • #17
                                  modern "pressure treated" lumber is soaked under pressure in a solution containing arsenic which prevents bacterial and fungus deteririation of the wood. That small amount of arsenic, if concentrated by burning the wood can indeed be deadly if consumed in large quantities. Calves who had access would lick the ash for its potassium and salt content and would not notice the arsenic.

                                  Cresote does not contain significant arsenic, but has many other substances which are carcinogenic in humans. This is why creosote is no longer used as a preservative. it does leach into the water table and over a long life, it can accumulate and contribute to cancers. Its worse if you paint the stuff on your skin and never wash it off, but who does that? Horses will not chew the stuff as it is extremely bitter tasting. Horses do not live long enough to risk getting cancer from it when they're 80.

                                  I would not use anything containing creosote on my land as a matter of principle, but I doubt there is significant danger in using recycled railway ties in the way you suggest.

                                  Burning them- well, would you stand in the black cloud from an oil fire? Would you breathe in the clouds from a refinery fire? I suspect the poor guy who died was previously compromised in some way and got a sufficient toxic dose from being enveloped by a big cloud of black smoke to finish him off. Like a firefighter who gets a lungful from a chemical fire. Not a good idea.
                                  "The Threat of Internet Ignorance: ... we are witnessing the rise of an age of equestrian disinformation, one where a trusting public can graze on nonsense packaged to look like fact."-LRG-AF

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                                  • #18
                                    Creosote is primarily polynuclear aromatics (organic material in ring structures composed of hydrogen and carbon with a deficiency of carbon). Both burn, relatively completely, and there should be no poisonous material remaining from burning (but can be DURING the burning process, due to pyrolysis, hence the lung damage reported). Burning CCA is even worse; arsenic trioxide isn't much of a poison, but it's hell on the lungs. And if CC stands for copper chromate, even worse. We're not even allowed to use chormate for cooling water any more, as it's a listed hazardous waste even when it's not a waste.

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