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Property unsuitable?

2513 Views 11 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  xshedragonx
First, I should introduce myself. I've been a horse lover most of my life, since the age of four when I lived in a housing project with my family and saw them on an old western. I've been riding since the age of twelve, taking lessons paid for with labor, until we could afford to pay with cash. I bought my first horse when I was almost thirty. We bought my first horse property in my mid thirties, and that is where my question comes in.

My title shouldn't really have a question mark, because I know the answer. What I really need is a solution.

My property was recently cleared, if you can call three years ago recent. It was not done well. It wasn't properly graded, and the trees were simply pushed down and the area run over with the dozer. I say this is not sufficient only because I still have places where the horses punch through. Despite having a specific area worked and having sand put down, the area still is not safe. If I am wrong in thinking it should have been graded and worked more thoroughly, feel free to correct me. It's fairly obvious to me that my ignorance has already been a huge problem. It may be that the clay based land is just too unstable. There is a huge runoff problem I've been trying to correct with green planting.

Is there a solution? I am desperate because I've been through the ringer on the horse issue and this is really the last straw. If corrections are feasible, I'll see what I can do to make them. If it turns out I just made a poor choice in buying this land, then I have to make harder decisions. We are not wealthy, so any decision must take into consideration that fact as well.
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Did you have a written contract concerning the grading work, and did you sign off on it as being satisfactory? If so, you approved the work as is and you're out of luck. Sorry.

I know this won't help you now, but one of the first things I looked at before purchasing my property was how well it drained. Drainage is one of the most important aspects when you buy property, especially if you plan to put horses on it.

I first saw my place in the middle of a sleet/snow storm, and it had been raining quite a bit in the days prior to my visit. The fact that the land had no real standing water despite the vast amounts of it coming down out of the sky, made me want it immediately.

My barn and stalls do not flood, as they're placed slightly uphill with the house. My front paddock floods on occasion, but it drains very quickly because of the soil/rock composition of the property.

Clay based land shouldn't be that unstable, but it does present drainage issues. Water unable to drain properly causes erosion issues, which is why you're thinking your land is unstable.
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I'm not looking to hold anyone responsible for the work, actually. What's done is done, especially at this late date.

We did have the land inspected, and the inspector did what he could. The land was not cleared at the time, save for the space the house stood on, and he couldn't know it would need extensive grading and work to support horses. I can't fault him for that at all.

I'm wondering if anyone knows of a solution for the holes. The rest is something I can fix with time. But the instability is a real danger.
To clarify, if it helps at all, the land out back is naturally terraced, with the paddock up highest, sloping at one end to the arena, which dries quickly after a storm, which slopes down to another area. Sounds almost perfect, except the runoff is very, very strong, pulling earth from the paddock and leaving stream beds in the arena. And there are the weak areas where a horse will occasionally punch through unexpectedly. That's why I think it's the fact of the recent tree removal that is the problem, as well as grading issues.

I'm thinking there is no fix save for regrading the entire area. Does anyone know if I am correct? I can't get anyone knowledgeable out here to give an estimate, even! That's another part of the issue.
I am a little confused on what was done but if the trees were pushed over and covered with dirt as they rot it will cause hollow spots and the punch through. Typically when something is graded the weight of the machinery packs the area down and you do not get much settling later that is why I think maybe the trees were not removed. Now if it is too much of a steep grade and grass does not grow there it will get runoff and wash away. Clay is very dense and that would be harder ground not softer so I don't think it is the caly so it sounds like the trees may not have been removed. Also sand over that you added will wash out easily. I have mixed lime with my sand for the arena and it sets up well and the water runs off.
Weird, because I watched those trees pushed into a pile by the tree line. Now I really can't explain the holes. Maybe the root systems remained? But these were smallish pines, so I would not think it would be that.

There is a very crumbly type of rock found just under the ground around the property. Some flakes off in your hand, and another type shatters to white, flakey crystal when you throw it. Perhaps these are the problem. Sounds like a geologist might be who I need to talk to, lol.

But adding lime sounds like a way to hold the sand, if I ever get the other issue resolved.
I wonder if you could get in a large commercial "tiller" or a farmer with an old plow that he wouldn't mind if it got banged up on a rock or two. Turn the ground over in a cross hatch as deep as you can, and harrow it over. Fix your drainage.
I would guess that some of the problems resulted from leaving the root systems of the removing trees in place, and the rest is genreal drainage problem.

After initial clearing and grading, there's a process known locally as "scarifying" - essentially raking the top foot of the soil and bringing the roots to the top so they can be removed. However, after three years, even if that wasn't done, I'm amazed you're still geting punch through.

I would call a couple of grading contractors and see what their suggestions are. I would also ask about some stragetically placed drain tile or French drains to helps with the volume of water and erosion.
This is all very strange. Where are you located? I ask only to get an idea of the type of ground you have.
I'm in west central GA.

The tiller idea sounds pretty reasonable. I'm also hoping against hope that I can get a good contractor out here. That part can be a little tricky.
I have three suggestions for you. First, find one of the recent punch through holes. Using a trowel, scrape away the soil or vegetation around the edge of the hole. Take a few photos. Probe the sides and bottom of the hole. You need to find out if the holes are coming between branches that were left in place, or geologically soft areas. Open the hole by digging with a shovel. Take more photos. Look at more than one hole.

Second, ask for help from a larger, well known contractor. You may have to pay to have them come out. If you get nothing but free estimates, you might get what you paid for. A good contractor will know more about the soils in your area. I was going to suggest getting soil cores performed, but there is a good possibility that the cores could be done between the problem spots, showing nothing.

Third, you might look at installing a track system that would allow the horse to use the perimeter, and keep them off of the center of the pature. This would mean fewer fixes for you. It might be a short term solution, but also means more hay through the warm season.

Slow Feeding Horses on Paddock Paradise Tracks - Paddock Paradise Wiki

When grading, I would install drainage swales between the paddock and arena, leading to a swale along the lower side. And another swale between the areana and the pasture. The idea is to take all upslope water and divert it around the next use area. You will need to provide an area for the concentrated water to level out and slow down before it leaves your property - otherwise you may create erosion on the next lower property.
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Photos of problem area?

Do you have some photos of the problem that you could post? This could help with giving us a better idea of what you are facing.
I had problem with Sink holes where I live , but I just fenced them off fromt he main pastures. I belive however that your problem cant be fenced off?

Best Wishes
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