Be it due to space restrictions, climate, or geography, not every horse owner has the luxury of turning horses out on expansive, nutrient-rich pastures. The devil is in the many details when it comes to keeping horses in good condition even without access to grass. Still, many horses live happy and healthy lives on drylots. This type of living arrangement does pose some basic challenges though: dust, the potential for sand colic, balancing nutrient intake, insect control, herd health, and lack of free exercise, to name a few.
Horses in dry locations stir up a lot of dust, particularly when stamping flies during insect season. Running horses at play often appear shrouded in a haze of sand and dirt as their hooves churn bone-dry ground. Dust not only makes keeping horses and facilities clean difficult but also poses respiratory risks for both horses and humans.
Logan Potts, DVM, of Clovis Veterinary Hospital, in Clovis, New Mexico, sees this as a growing concern and recommends wetting down paddocks, corrals, and stalls as often as possible. “Dust irritation can cause horses to develop signs of nasal discharge, eye irritation, and subsequent decreased nasolacrimal duct (tear duct) drainage,” he says. “Some may develop inflammatory airway disease (IAD), which is often initiated by inhalation of dust particles and environmental irritants. IAD contributes as much as 20-50% to poor performance in equine athletes.”
Jason Turner, Ph.D., professor and extension horse specialist at New Mexico State University, in Las Cruces, New Mexico, also encourages wetting the ground to manage dust: “If water resources allow, everyday watering of the drylot area with a sprinkler helps keep dust down,” he says. “If water is not available, then consider a more permanent alternative such as using plant oils (such as soybean or sunflower) to hold down the dust. Although used in riding arenas, it can be messy if horses are allowed free use of the area where they can lie down and roll. Therefore, carefully consider this option before deciding to use it, as once applied, it cannot be easily undone.”
We hope these tips + tricks will help you better manage your drylot! It can take some extra effort, but it's well worth it when your horse's health is in question.