Round pen footing: Start off strong
When building a round pen, there are several factors you should consider and plan out before you begin construction. This will help you avoid mistakes along the way and save you time (and money) in the long run. Here are a few of the most important things you should know to build a high-quality round pen that will last for years:
First, every round pen should start with a sturdy base. As you’re planning your project, ensure you have a layered base and level ground. This will not only make your pen last longer, but it provides the drainage necessary, especially after a heavy rainstorm.
Although it’s unlikely you’ll have a perfectly level piece of ground to work with, there are several things you can do to make your existing ground level and suitable for drainage. Each of these options varies by your budget and how much work you’re willing to put into it.
Basically, you should think of your pen’s base and footing like a layered cake. The bottom layer should be sloped, then mixtures of gravel, stone dust, and landscaping cloth should be used on top of it. Although this is time-intensive, it will pay off in the end.
The last layer on the cake is icing – the footing your horse will be walking on day after day. Popular options include wood shavings, shredded rubber, grass and dirt, and sand. Your choice should depend on your climate and weather conditions you experience throughout the year.
Wood shavings are a good choice because they add organic material to the pen to help it maintain its cushion. However, if wood gets too wet, it will become slick and break down quicker than normal. The same thing happens if it gets too dry.
Rubber shavings are another option. The advantage to rubber is that its cushion breaks down any natural hardness and it absorbs soil water better. However, the lightweight substance can blow away during heavy winds or be carried away during a rainstorm.
Natural grass and dirt are an alternative option. They’re cheap and easy to use, but not the best choice you can make for footing. Grass is damaged very easily, especially in a high-use area. Dirt compacts and will eventually create a hard top layer that could cause injury to your horses.
Perhaps the best round pen option is sand. It provides a great cushion and drains well, so it can be used in wetter climates.
As you plan your next round pen, keep in mind these tips. The result? A secure and long-lasting solution for your horses.