Heavy Use Areas

If you have a small acreage or even a large farm a useful tool for preserving your pastures during wet weather is a Heavy Use Area (HUA).  For some photographic examples of HUAs check out slide eight of my first webinar . These are designated areas frequently and intensively used by people, animals or vehicles that are stabilized by establishing vegetative cover, surfacing with suitable materials, and/or installing needed structures.

HUAs are also called sacrifice areas, confinement areas or high traffic area pads. Horses are confined in HUAs to keep the animals from overgrazing pastures, compacting soil, or destroying wet pastures by tearing the soaked grasses with their hooves. They can also be used to confine horses who are not stalled but need to their access to grass restricted for weight management. High traffic areas usually include areas where horses are fed or come to water as well as gates and areas near shelters.

HUAs help prevent the excessive mud caused when horses are restricted to one area. These areas can be constructed using techniques such as crushed stone or geotextiles covered with sand, small gravel or blue stone dust to minimize mud. There is some good information about HUAs in this extension pamphlet:


There is also a relatively new product that was developed for the permeable driveway market and has been adapted for equine use. It is called HoofGrid™ and is a plastic grid system that comes in snap together one foot square units and effectively keeps the layers of your HUA separate and in place so that maintenance is kept at a minimum. Installation is relatively easy and the system does allow better drainage and keeps the sand in place and the area dry. I have installed this product and used it in a paddock area that flooded frequently; it was relatively easy to install (much easier than cutting mats to fit an odd sized stall) and kept the area from flooding and allowed it to dry within a day or so of a heavy downpour. I have also seen this product used as the floor of outdoor shelters and it works very well, no more mud to suck off your boots, promote thrush or just make a mess!

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Shelly Ingram

I am a third generation horsewoman; My father operated a 50 horse boarding and training facility in northern California, where he specialized in re-training spoiled horses. I was his demonstration rider and general assistant in all aspects of running the ranch. I went on to work for several major show and race horse trainers, eventually opening my own barn where I focused on Junior and Amateur riders. I have trained numerous champion horses and riders on all levels and in variety of disciplines. I have also worked as a journalist and have more than a decade of experience in land use planning.

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