"Sacrifice Area" : no sharp knives or beating drums are needed here

Here in the Pacific Northwest, mud is a fact of life.  Mud is pretty much universal -- in parking lots, trails, backyards, and even in the house if dogs and boots aren't vigorously hosed off before you allow them indoors.  The mud in stable yards can be nothing shy of epic, and can get so deep and sticky that it sucks boots right off your feet...but there are mitigations.  

All it takes is money and time!  Simple, right?

Horses for Clean Water  is an awesome local organization that teaches horse owners how to minimize the mud--and thereby, keep the mud and manure out of the water table.  I read several of their articles today to refresh my memory about constructing a sacrifice area.  

A horse sacrifice area is not a place to ritually exterminate misbehaving equines.  Rather, a sacrifice area is an enclosure that is designed to be an outdoor living and play space for horses that does NOT grow grass...so that the grass can grow and recover from trampling feet and yanking teeth.  A sacrifice area can be as small as a regular horse stall (12' x 12'), or as large as....well, how much land is available?    

Since Jim and I will have about 4 acres of land for our two horses, we want to design a barn and sacrifice area that will cover less than an acre.   The barn will measure roughly 16 ' x 36', and our goal is to create a sacrifice area that will measure roughly 20' x 40'...which is, not coincidentally, the size of a small arena.   Since it's a play area, I want to play too!

The sacrifice area will start off as a large paddock space into which we dump as much hogsfuel as we can afford to dump.  

Wait:  hogsfuel?   I thought we wouldn't be killing any animals?


In the olden days of lumber mills, one powersource for the sawmill was a steam engine.  Steam for the engine was created by burning the parts of the trees that weren't needed as lumber--bark, roots, etc--which were chipped up and dumped into the engine's firebox.  The firebox looked kind of like a pig, and was called the "hog."  The stuff dumped into the hog is called hogsfuel.  

And hogsfuel, which is shredded bark and wood fiber, is good arena footing, and an excellent mud-mitigator!

Here's a link to a local farm that did some major mud mitigation.  

This is BEFORE.   

And this is AFTER:

No ritual drums are needed, either---just a bunch of $$$ to pay for a few truckloads of hogsfuel, and a bunch of time to put the stuff where it needs to go.  It's not glorious work, but it beats having mud so deep it sucks my boots off.


  1. so THAT's why we call it that. *whistle*

  2. Yup, that's why. The dispatcher at Starkenberg Shavings explained it to me, years ago!

  3. I'm interested in that "hog fuel" for my arena/sacrifice area. Where would I get something like that?

  4. Here in the Pacific Northwest, most shavings/livestock bedding companies carry the stuff, or they know who does carry it. I also see hogsfuel posted on Craiglist pretty often (Seattle CL and also Bellingham CL). The other place to ask is the local farmer's coop; if it's available locally, they'll know where. I checked the yellow pages, and the listing is under "Bark and Bark Products."

    Here in the Swamplands, our hogsfuel is mostly Douglass fir and cedar, with some hemlock thrown in. Be wary of wood chips made of walnut or cherry or other hardwoods that are poisonous to horses--your county agricultural extension office can advise about that.

    Good luck!


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