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Gravel road work?

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  • Gravel road work?

    I have, at my disposal, a gravel back road that is about a mile and a half long (so a 3 mile roundtrip) with a few gentle slopes.

    We wouldn't be doing more than walking, and it's an older road that isn't heavily graveled. I also have paved roads at my disposal but they are more frequently travelled two-lane roads with 55+mph speeds and curves, so not ideal for riding.

    Thoughts on incoporating this change of scenery into our regularly scheduled routine, say 2-3 times a week? Is that just asking for soundness issues? I'm primarily thinking of my big horse, who is shod all the way around anyway, and it stays light enough until about 7pm these days.

    We're still stuck primarily in the indoor with the @#$ &#!% round pen that shrinks my riding space to 60x70, and I'm starting to lose my sanity.

  • #2
    For walk work, as long as there aren't big sharp rocks that are going to push up past where his shoes raise his feet off the ground, I would say go for it.

    Comment


    • #3
      I have access to a gravel back road that I regularly ride both of my horses one with no issues whatsoever. Both are OTTBs, one with shoes all a round and one with only shoes on the front and we have had zero issues and do frequent walk-trot work on the backroads around my barn going from 3-5 miles a ride (just depending on which horse I am on). To be honest it has really helped both of them build stamina and I have seen steady improvement in the back hooves of my horse who is barefoot on his back two. I have been told by several trainers who work with racehorses in England and other parts of Europe who have told me that riding on roads like that is something that is done a lot with racehorses at the walk and trot before they put them on the track as it helps condition them.

      Obviously you should watch out for rocks, but if its smaller gravel and you have no issues, keep on doing it!

      Comment


      • #4
        Smaller gravel (IE not sharp rocks) should be just fine - I have done walking hacks on this type of roads with both unshod and shod horses for many years with no problems at all - even a little trotting work is OK for some, especially if they are shod.

        I think it's good for horses to learn to work on many different types of footing myself.
        www.felixfjord.blogspot.com

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        • #5
          I ride regularly on the gravel roads around the farm. Toby is actually a nicer horse to ride when out on the roads than when hacking through the fields, so it is a very nice way to get out and not feel like I'm taking my life in my hands! I also like it because even if it is muddy, snowy, or otherwise yucky, we don't have to be stuck on a 20 meter circle. Toby LOVES his walks on the road (mostly....there's a few dogs that cause some hysteria ).

          Depending on my mood, I may hack him out there 2 or 3 times a week. I try to do one LONG walk (1+ hour) a week. Last week, we did 7 miles/1 hr 45min. The roads are also very hilly, so he gets a very good workout, and usually needs a good rinse off afterwards.

          I think it is doing GREAT things for him. His muscling is fantastic right now, and his topline is really coming along. His legs are also very cold and tight...makes me VERY happy.

          Long, slow work on hard going is tremendously good for horses' soundness (I tried to walk Vernon a mile every day on a paved drive when he was younger. I think it helped him). It builds bone density (I don't know how much it improves a mature horse...maybe someone with a more scientific mind could say), and also makes soft tissues strong and resilient. Walking and trotting (barring the road isn't too rocky) is very, very good for them.

          I would trot more, but Toby is without pads right now and the roads are fairly newly graded with fresh gravel. So we stick to walking.
          Amanda

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          • #6
            Our driveway is long, graveled and steep. I've used it for years walking down and sometimes trotting up. I think the consistent work on the rougher surface has tended to toughen up feet. Since we've moved to this farm the incidence of abscesses has gone down.

            We also tend to hack the trails in the mountains that can be rocky.
            A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.

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            • #7
              Not an eventer (endurance/ trail gal here) but I do a lot of training on gravel roads at a walk and trot. Sounds like it'd be great for you and your horse to get out there
              I'm good at being uncomfortable so I can't stop changing all the time -Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine
              If I were your appendages, I'd hold open your eyes so you would see- Incubus

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              • #8
                I'm an endurance rider, but I ride my barefoot Arab on gravel roads all the time. He'll w/t/c down them like its grass. I try to stick to just w/t, but he's more than happy to gallop down older gravel roads. He's got rock hard little feet and has never had an issue with it. If anything, its helped his feet. I think it has made him stronger and sounder all the way around.

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                • #9
                  Like others said, it depends on what type of gravel is on the road. Big, sharp rocks? Not so fun. But the kind of gravel roads I'm used to back in IL, we were always riding down them, at w/t/c.

                  I think it would a fabulous way to condition, especially if you incorporate trot sets. Knowing the exact distance helps a bunch too!!
                  runnjump86 Instagram

                  Horse Junkies United guest blogger

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                  • #10
                    The gravel, your horse's feet and how he's shod will all play into it, but in general, yes, it's great work for them. I love dirt roads for conditioning.

                    Comment

                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      Originally posted by runNjump86 View Post
                      Like others said, it depends on what type of gravel is on the road. Big, sharp rocks? Not so fun. But the kind of gravel roads I'm used to back in IL, we were always riding down them, at w/t/c.

                      I think it would a fabulous way to condition, especially if you incorporate trot sets. Knowing the exact distance helps a bunch too!!
                      I'm leery of doing more than a walk and short bursts of easy trot on this guy...he's big, and not a young'un anymore. Earlier this year he was showing some mild soreness that I believe we've taken care of with a few minor shoeing changes and joint maintenance.

                      We'll see how he handles some trotting. The road is relatively straight, and would be great for trot sets if he's OK with it. Hurray for no more endless circles in the arena!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Heinz 57 View Post
                        I'm leery of doing more than a walk and short bursts of easy trot on this guy...he's big, and not a young'un anymore. Earlier this year he was showing some mild soreness that I believe we've taken care of with a few minor shoeing changes and joint maintenance.

                        We'll see how he handles some trotting. The road is relatively straight, and would be great for trot sets if he's OK with it. Hurray for no more endless circles in the arena!
                        You know your horse better than anyone. if soreness will be an issue, then definitely stick to a walk. But if you do feel he's doing okay and not ouchy (being shod on all 4 feet helps) then long, low, reaching walks followed by collected medium walk, back to long and low, then into a short working trot for a minute or two, repeat. I'm new to this conditioning stuff but that would seem like a pretty good workout, especially if the road is long, straight, and slightly hilly like you said!
                        runnjump86 Instagram

                        Horse Junkies United guest blogger

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                        • #13
                          Plastic shoes, either EquiFlex or Epona, are the best invention ever for gravel roads. We trot and canter, and sometimes gallop, on them in plastic shoes. The Equiflex have clips to help with sheared nails.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I love really long walks on firm surfaces for conditioning work. I also don't have a problem doing trot work on gravel/dirt roads and I've been known to do canter work there when everything else was a wet soupy mess. Knock on wood, my horse is built like a brick sh*t house and seems no worse for the wear. My understanding is that slow work on hard surfaces is good for preventing soft tissue injuries.
                            The big guy: Lincoln

                            Southern Maryland Equestrian

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              Originally posted by Hampton Bay View Post
                              Plastic shoes, either EquiFlex or Epona, are the best invention ever for gravel roads. We trot and canter, and sometimes gallop, on them in plastic shoes. The Equiflex have clips to help with sheared nails.
                              Hmmm.. interesting thought. Not sure I could get my farrier to go for it, but I guess if we get to seriously working on the roads and gravel, I'll talk to him about it.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I re-habed my suspensory guy on gravel roads. In fall and winter when the ground is muddy and slippery and the ring too deep with water the safest footing choice is the farms gravel road. It's mostly stone dust and small gravel well packed so perfect footing for walks and short trots. the gravel tends to migrate to the center of the road and leaves well packed stone dust on the 2 sides. Once soaked throughly by loads of rain those 2 sections are perfect footing for w/t/c work.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Heinz 57 View Post
                                  Hmmm.. interesting thought. Not sure I could get my farrier to go for it, but I guess if we get to seriously working on the roads and gravel, I'll talk to him about it.
                                  I go out frequently with friends who use plain steel shoes. Paved roads are hella scary. I can canter a paved road in these things. They also have to be careful over the bigger rocks, but my Arab doesn't miss a beat with his plastic shoes. Barefoot, he couldn't walk down the paved road without getting ouchy when he would hit a small rock. Forget gravel roads.

                                  The EquiFlex are most like metal shoes IMO. The Ground Controls suck though. Eponas are good provided your horse doesn't over-reach.

                                  You really should give them a try.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Good question! I've always kind of wondered how beneficial it is to walk on gravel roads. My guy has aluminum front shoes and I notice they wear down a bit faster if I've done a lot of hacking on pavement or gravel.

                                    We have a gravel road near our place and it's best when the neighbors haven't added fresh gravel recently. Then it becomes a nice hard dirt road that I could probably trot on in the winter. That's when I can take my minis for a walk too because they're barefoot and go practically three-legged lame if I walk them on gravel.

                                    Although the road is only about a mile long, it allowed my mom and I to ride during Snowmageddon, so we love it!
                                    Lindsay

                                    Check out my blog at http://lindsayberreth.com

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Help evaluating road surfaces please:

                                      The roads near my barn are "dirt" (but are graded using gravel). Since gravel / grading has not happened in years -- the roads are now hard packed with some places that are rocky.

                                      Would most dirt roads be considered gravel? Never thought about this until reading the thread! TIA

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Depends on where you are! Around here, in Northern Virginia (and MD), most of our "dirt roads" are gravel. They may or may not be smooth packed, depending on the county you are in and how much they are maintained (and the traffic level).

                                        In SC, dirt roads are, in fact DIRT. I don't recall encountering a lot of gravel while hacking roads in Aiken and Camden. They are firm packed and I think maintenance usually just involves grading them with a blade.

                                        I would gladly hack on either, but was always more than comfortable to trot and canter on the roads in SC. I am more conservative on the gravel roads here.
                                        Amanda

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