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Tell me about your sacrifice paddocks!

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  • Tell me about your sacrifice paddocks!

    We are going to have 5+ acres of pasture for 3 (fatso) horses. Pasture is going to be divided into three sections: 2 turnout "fields" and 1 sacrifice paddock. Sacrifice paddock will have a 12x36 shedrow style "barn" that has the stalls open into it.

    How big is your sacrifice paddock?
    How many horses do you have?
    What is the surface of your paddock (dirt, stone dust, ect.)?
    How did you build your paddock (use geo-textile fabric, just put rock down, nothing, ect.)?

    Feel free to include any tips, helpful hints, or cautions for this first-time sacrifice paddock builder

    Please post pictures if you have them as well!

  • #2
    I have 5 acres, but only about 3.5 to 4 of it is in grass, due to arena, paddock, barn, house, yard, etc.

    My paddock is off my barn and is about 60 x 100 feet. I currently have four horses here. During the winter, I only have three. My daughter's horse is home for the summer.

    The footing in the paddock is grit/screenings. It's all eroding/washing away into the fields and I think I want to replace it with pea gravel. My barefoot trimmer says that pea gravel is the best for their feet.

    The paddock was here when I moved in and it looks like there is some sort of fabric underneath at some level. There must also be a French drain somewhere because I can see the end of it down by the gate.

    I use electric between the fields and I have six divisions of the 3.5 ac. so that I can rotate around a lot. They range in size from about 1/2 ac. to probably more like 3/4-1 ac.

    I've found that my horses don't eat on hillsides, in the woods, or coarse grass. But they eat the bluegrass down to nothing.

    I used to keep my horses in half the day - nighttime during the winter and daytime during the summer. Now they come in only for a few hours in the morning, winter and summer. This is so they can get their naps and not have the grit tear up their hocks as much.

    I hope this helps.
    Laurie Higgins
    "Expectation is premeditated disappointment."


    • #3
      I use about five acres, too: four pastures for grazing and six paddocks for "sacrifice." Three of the scacrifice paddocks are attached to stalls at the back of the barn, one horse in each. The other two are attached to lean-to run ins, also attached to the barn, so the barn is "wrapped" by one-horse paddocks (which is convenient as I'm a one-person operation--I can shift horses around very quickly in bad weather or when I'm in a hurry). The last paddock with shelter is at the second barn I use (my neighbor's place) and is also a lean-to attached to her barn, but it is the length of two outsized stalls (the other lean-tos are 12x12), so I can put two in there (currently, when I'm resting the pastures, I put two mares and their foals there). That paddock is also bigger and contains some lovely woods that the mares actually prefer over the lean-to. It's big enough that the babies can run and play.

      The last paddock is the ONLY paddock I have that doesn't have a drainage problem--simply because there's a big drainage ditch in the middle of the woods (or what once was a drainage swale or something). The lean-to problem is, of course, that the roofs drain into the paddock. I consulted with a builder who tried to sell me BOTH no-seam gutters and trenching, but then got a second opinion who convinced me that all I really need is decent trenching. Since none of the paddocks at my barn are very wide (the ones behind the barn are 42 feet at their widest, but only 30 feet from stall door to outside fence--the critical distance because the worse problems come right at the stall doors. The other two are similar: 30x42.

      So the advice I got that I'm following is to trench from the stall doors to the outside fence (for the back paddocks) and trench across the front of the lean-tos and then across the adjacent back paddocks to the same outside fence. Short "spurs" extending out from the trench in front of the lean-tos are to collect from low spots that exist in that area (which I'm also supposed to fill--and started to until my back went out, leaving the dirt sitting there as a very fun "king of the hill" obstacle for everyone). PVC pipes with holes, covered by large-stone gravel with a protective plastic matt on top (Northern Tools has them--they anchor the dirt while letting water flow through, and they can be driven on or stepped on without moving around or sinking) finishe the job.

      The thing is, I'm in Florida, so the trenching is pretty easy. I'd have this done if my back and my bank account weren't in such bad shape at the moment (three beasts in work under pros, ugh).

      One problem I'm encountering with my new paddocks (the ones around the lean-tos) is NEW SACRIFICE areas! I usually keep the gates to the paddock open so horses in the adjacent pasture can use the lean-to (I never turn out more than two in one pasture and never turn out any two who aren't good buddies if they're expected to share the 12x12 lean tos). When I keep the gate open, everything is fine. But when I shut the gate and still have horses in the adjacent pasture, they cut up the grass on the other side of the fence! I just noticed this morning that I'm getting down to dirt, about a four-foot swathe of it, on the other side of the gate, parallel to the paddock fence.

      I've been spreading manure on the fence-line "tracks" everywhere (because my stallion, while not a fence walker, IS a "fence runner" when he gets upset, so I also have bare dirt in a track alongside a couple of fencelines. I have found that the manure keeps the track from widening and in one pasture, I've seeded the old manure track (it's biodegraded fully now) and the grass is coming back nicely (no stallion on it, though!).

      So, that's where I am. Don't know if these details helped. OH! One important thing I also did was lace the paddocks with electric since they are NOT double fenced and also, perhaps even more importantly, because when the horses have nothing else to do, they seem to take to either butt rubbing or wood chewing. Oh, also, I seed, drag and fertilize the heck out of my pastures and the paddocks enable me to keep horses off them for long periods of time, too. I also have an area I use as a riding ring, plus a courtyard area in front of the barn which both have some grass and I use them when I'm keeping horses off of the seeded pastures. IMO, winter rye is worth every penny down here. My horses grazed all winter, which is mighty good with 14 of them on only five acres (well, I use the yard, too, sometimes, I'll admit!).
      Sportponies Unlimited
      Athletic Thoroughbred crosses for the highly motivated, smaller rider.


      • #4
        I have 7 horses and one donkey on approx. 20 acres. I have a dry lot (used to be used as a sacrifice area before I fenced in more fields).

        My dry lot is roughly 100 x 80 feet, with run-ins along one end. Four horses fit very comfortably in there; I often have five. All 8 creatures would be way too crowded.

        The surface is just dirt. However, I planned its location: it is over a gravel bed, and drains very quickly. (If the ground is soaked, it does get muddy, but it doesn't stay like that for weeks on end). Also, the run-in floors area always bone dry. It is also at the top of a little rise, so again, water drains away.
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        • #5
          My barn also has 3 12 x 12' stalls that open into my sacrifice paddock. It's a GREAT setup. The paddock is about 1/2 acre and is attached by a gate to a 2.5 acre grass paddock, so if it's a "grass day" all I have to do in the morning is open the gate and the horses are fed.

          My normal herd is 2 horses and a pony, but right now I have FIVE on the place, which is temporary. They all do fine milling around their 1/2 acre, with turnout into one of the larger pastures as time/rain/weather allows.

          I have an automatic waterer in the sacrifice paddock, and this is the only water I need other than a trough in the large pasture across the driveway. The horses basically live in the sacrifice paddock, and if they're out on grass in the small paddock they just walk in, get their drink, and walk back out.

          One thing I really think was a good add-on to my barn was a 10 x 36' roof overhang built out over the stalls. That is their shelter from sun, rain, and snow (if it's super windy they go stand by the thick bushes elsewhere) and it keeps me from having to use the stalls as shelter-cum-toilet. I put old railroad ties around this 10 x 36' area and built it up just very slightly with sand, soil and occasionally I throw some bedding in there. It stays high and dry and the horses often sleep under there. Hay feeders are just outside this "horse porch" and all hay is fed outside unless I have to confine one to a stall--saves HUGE time and bedding on stall cleaning.

          The sacrifice paddock started out as grass and clover, but within a few months it was (and remains) bare dirt simply due to grazing pressure and hoof traffic. A few blades of grass will grow, but they are kept mowed down by the pony. We are absolutely blessed with sandy soil, so even after heavy, heavy rains or snowmelt the mud is minimal and short lived. The paddock even has a natural "crown" to it and if I harrow it up I often use it as a very nice riding surface.

          There is one low spot near the gate, and my horses prefer to use that area as the "toilet" so every fall I put down a yard or so of pea gravel near there--finally, it's gotten to be nice and firm and is no longer yucky.

          Near where the hay feeders are gets mucky in the winter from wasted hay and horses lounging around and peeing in the old hay. Springtime usually involves removing the (old tire) feeders and scraping up a layer of muck, but this job also gets smaller every year as I build it up little by little with gravel added in the fall.

          I pick the sacrifice paddock out EVERY SINGLE DAY unless there is snow cover. My wonderful horses use one small corner as their preferred toilet area, so this job is not that bad. It looks like HELL if I don't, and the flies are very minimal here partly due to this vigilance. After a long winter there's a LOT of poop when the snow melts--this gets harrowed vigorously at the first opportunity and after that it's back to daily paddock-picking. My nice, light, sandy soil with no mud would not remain that way long if there was a giant load of poop sitting there all the time!

          My advice: if it's at all possible, choose the HIGHEST and DRYEST area for your sacrifice paddock. Build an elevated "horse porch" near the stalls if you can, and cover it so they can have shelter without having to be IN the barn. Pick up the paddock daily. Improve the footing in the crappy areas. Fence safely. Enjoy!
          Click here before you buy.


          • #6
            My total acreage for the farmette is 5ac, so probably 3+ of that is fenced for pastures and the barn w/sacrifice paddock in the middle. I can close off either or both pastures from the sacrifice area - leaving the horses the "barn lobby" to roam.
            Currently 1 horse & 1 pony share the property.

            Barn is surrounded by this sacrifice area, horses have free access to stalls from the paddock.

            There is a 25' wide gravel path from the gate to the front sliding door of the barn. Then a 3' wide path from the front slider to the service door.
            The rest of the area is sparse grass and mud <> when wet.

            If I had the $$ I'd do the entire sacrifice area in gravel topped with stonedust.
            The gravel allows drainage, the stonedust keeps the weeds down but some grass does manage to work through it so there is "grazing" if I close off the pastures.
            And with the gravel/stonedust topping I never have to sink to my ankles (or deeper) in mud!
            *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
            Steppin' Out 1988-2004
            Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
            Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


            • #7
              Build an elevated "horse porch" near the stalls if you can, and cover it so they can have shelter without having to be IN the barn.
              Deltawave, how did you achieve the elevation? Is it a drop off or a steady slope? Where does the overhang's water run off? Does it impact the slope/drop off--or just keep flowing downhill without erosion?
              Sportponies Unlimited
              Athletic Thoroughbred crosses for the highly motivated, smaller rider.


              • #8
                The barn was sited on an infinitesimal "high spot" and the builder did a little bit of grading to make sure the barn was up just a bit--we're talking maybe six inches rise over the 20 feet surrounding the barn, not much, but enough to make gravity work FOR me.

                When I put the RR ties in around the horse porch, I added a few yards of soil and sand, and the ties keep this "footing" in place, and since I keep adding to it (a bag of bedding every few weeks) there is always just enough cushion in there to keep it dry and soft, and the unimproved ground just outside the porch, which gets no additions, is a very small step down now from the porch.

                The overhang did not have gutters at first--BIG MISTAKE. I remedied that pronto. Normal rainfall/flow pattern in the paddock takes the water diagonally through in a natural course, and although I wish that area were farther from the barn, it's far enough that it doesn't cause much of a problem--the horses naturally avoid the lowest area and things dry really quickly here anyhow.

                When we get a heavy rain I do have to haul some of the sandy surface from the "bottom corner" of the paddock back up, but this is really not much if I keep up with harrowing.
                Click here before you buy.


                • #9
                  Deltawave ~ can you show us some pictures of the horse porch?
                  RIP Sucha Smooth Whiskey
                  May 17,2004 - March 29, 2010
                  RIP San Lena Peppy
                  May 3, 1991 - March 11, 2010


                  • #10
                    I only have 3 acres, so a lot of thought went into how to effectively cross fence to optimize grazing space for my two horses. Since the acreage is so small, I really had only one spot to put my barn, but it happened to be the best spot since the ground slopes away ever so slightly for good drainage.

                    I have two grazing areas, with the area around the house also useable for turnout. My paddock "sacrifice area" is a bit more than 100x80, which is more than enough room for my two to rip around in and get silly. Paddock footing is dirt, sand and stone dust (aka screenings). I WISH I had put down geotextile beforehand and might add it one of these days if I ever get the $ necessary.

                    Aerial view:

                    My barn is 32' wide x 32' long and has two 12x15 stalls that open to the paddock. It has an 8' overhang where the stalls open up, to which we added another 10' of overhang to provide plenty of room for shade:

                    In this pic, you can see the fence boards and gate we added in front of one of the stalls so that stall has an enclosed 8x15 "veranda" out front. It functions well as a "sick bay" if/when one needs to be kept stalled for a length of time:

                    An ample overhang is wonderful for shade and for days like this:

                    And for catching some warm morning sun after a major snowstorm (as in Winter of 2010!):

                    Good luck with your new plans, and definitely go for the geotextile for the sacrifice area. I sure wish I had!
                    Equus Keepus Brokus


                    • #11
                      We actually have 3 sacrifice areas on about 6-7 acres of turnout.

                      Area 1 is the "barnyard" about 45x45 area. Mostly stone dust on top of dirt. This area works okay in the winter for 2-3 horses, but is really too small for me to really consider it "turnout." However, it was the PERFECT size when my young horse was recovering from surgery this winter.

                      Area 2 is about 80x150. 1/2 is asphalt millings over geotextile, the other 1/2 is sand (this area used to be the riding arena). I like this paddock alot for up to 4-5 horses. We put in the asphalt millings this winter and it held up really well (and it was cheap!) I was worried it would get hot/rock hard this summer, but so far it's been fine since it's covered with a fine layer of hay droppings and horse manure (what we didn't pick up). It offers a nice firm surface that drains well, and it's easy to scrape with the tractor. The sand also drains pretty well, and the horses LOVE rolling in it!

                      Area 3 is the "aisle," a roughly 20x300 foot "L" shape that leads between 2 fields to the back field. This is just dirt, and only functions as a sacrifice paddock when it's dry. Otherwise, the footing turns to deep muck.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Diamondindykin View Post
                        Deltawave ~ can you show us some pictures of the horse porch?
                        Next time I get it spiffed up and presentable, I will take a picture. Bonnie untied one of the tire feeders last night and played frisbee with it (all 75 pounds of it!) so I have to go fetch the tire from halfway down the paddock. And we are STUFFED with mares right now so my free time is for scooping poop!
                        Click here before you buy.


                        • #13
                          I have 5 acres for my barn, pasture, ring, hay barn, house etc.

                          I have 8 stalls but only 6 horses right now...I have divided my pasture into 12 different sections. I turn two horses out in each one.....move them as the eat the pasture down.

                          I have stalls with attached gravel paddocks......horse are feed inside and have 24/7 access to their stall/paddock. They live in the stall/paddock area in the winter and are turned out on pasture for a couple hours each morning and evening in the summer months.


                          • #14
                            I have 11 acres but probably 7 that is actually fenced. Sacrifice paddocks and rotation is key! We rotate to a different field each week so each field rest for 3wks and you have a constant supply of fresh grass. I am always cutting and dragging the pastures to keep them kept up.

                            We have a 36x72 ft barn with dutch doors. Our sacrifice paddocks are on each side of the barn and the way we have it set up there are 4 horses on each side on the barn and 4 paddocks per side. Horses can come and go as they please in their stalls. Sacrifice paddocks open to fields which all can be closed off. There is a one main chute on each side of the back of the barn and the paddocks branch off the chute.

                            The sacrifice paddocks are 72 ft long by 50ft wide and have 4 horses in them. It sounds small but they can all move around and get out of the way of each other. They can run and hide in a stall if necessary. We have the sacrifice divided in case I have horses on stall rest or small paddock turnout so then you are look at at 50ft wide area by 36 ft long area. The water trough straddles in between the two areas.

                            My hubby built awesome hay feeders which keep the paddocks clean and make it easy to deal with poop/hay.

                            A really good contractor installed the paddocks after a failed first attempt by another contractor. We dug down to the clay base taking out all topsoil. Packed down the clay like a road base. Brought in some fill material which is basically like a clay/sand to bring it back up a bit. Then put down geotextile and then used 6+ inches of blacktop millings packed down.

                            Let me tell you how much I love them. We had that nasty winter where the fields were wet forever and ever. My horses feet stayed dry in the sacrifice paddocks, I could easily clean them, easy to scrape snow off and my field were saved. Priceless!
                            Some pics

                            My advice is don't skip the geotextile. Materials will mix with 1000lb animals running around especially when confined to a small area.


                            • #15
                              Here are a couple of pics of my horse porch. Nothing fancy, but keeps the girls high, dry, shady and comfy.
                              Attached Files
                              Click here before you buy.