We Ride Sport and Trail Magazine July 2016 - Page 40

FREE RANGE STABLING

Paddock Paradise: Let's Build a Ford!

How do you build a ford?

Our soil has a high clay content, so all we had to do was dig a large hole with an excavator. The water stays in place without a sealing agent. In one of the groups, we merely added a mixture of sand and gravel to prevent the bottom from becoming too muddy.

However, if your soil is sandy (which is great for footings, not so great for fords), you will have to add a seal. For example, you could use an EPDM liner. EPDM is a very elastic synthetic rubber with a high life expectancy. Its main advantage over run-of-the-mill PVC liners is that it does not contain plasticisers, which can leak out of the plastic after lengthy exposure to the sun. To protect the liner from sharp stones and your horses’ hooves, place sturdy fabric liners underneath and on top of the rubber. Then pour an approximately 20 cm layer of sand / gravel on top.

What about the water quality?

Many people assume that the water will quickly become brackish and need changing regularly. Up until now, we has not been our experience. First of all, it is interesting to note that none of the horses in any of the groups ever drop dung in the fords. So keeping the water holes clean would appear to be part of their natural behaviour.

Apart from this, the water quality will certainly depend on your respective surroundings. If your neighbour uses a lot of liquid manure, or if there are trees near the ford, dropping a great many leaves into the water, then the resulting water quality will be a lot different than if the ford is in an open space.

If you are unsure about the quality of your water, you should have it checked (inform the lab that it’s drinking water for animals). I have had the water from one of our fords tested and it was in perfectly clean condition.

What can I do to maintain or improve water quality?

We have added fenced-off areas to two of our fords and planted aquatic plants there to improve the water quality.

Will the horses go into the ford?

Yes, apart from a few exceptions. Most horses enjoy drinking from a ford. A lot of horses apparently prefer this type of natural water supply to artificial water troughs, which should of course also be constantly kept available. We only have a couple of exceptions who presumably would rather not get their hooves wet and so prefer to use the water troughs.

Tanja Romanazzi, PhD, has built fords on her paddock trails for horses to cross through the shallow water on their way to and from the barn, as part of her 'Free Range Stabling' program

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