Any owner who has ever bathed a horse while standing on a conventional concrete surface knows the soapy runoff can quickly turn that surface into a slick hazard for both animal and human. Stephen Higgins, PhD, director of Environmental Compliance for the Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, says horse owners and barn operators can install pervious concrete material in bathing and other water-retaining areas to reduce injury risk and protect precious water resources.
Pervious concrete is type of concrete material that allows rain water and runoff from activities such as bathing to pass through without significant pooling. Also known as porous concrete, porous pavement, or permeable concrete, the material is created by coating large aggregate with concrete paste. The resulting material allows water to run though a concrete slab. Due to its ability to filter water and to protect water quality, pervious concrete is used to pave streets and sidewalks and in sustainable construction projects. Around the farm, the material can be used in areas prone to water retention, Higgins said.
“Pervious concrete is best used in areas where you want to slow erosion or the speed of water—like under barn gutter downspouts—and it can also be useful in areas where traction is needed in the presence of water and/or soap,” Higgins said. “It is also used to filter agricultural runoff because it provides a solid/liquid separation system.”
The material’s filtering ability provides several environmental benefits as well, Higgins said.
“Because of its filtering ability, pervious concrete doesn’t allow a meandering stream of soap suds, urine, and other wastes from flowing offsite,” he said. “The material also provides filtering and storage of waste water and it allows it to drain slowly, allowing infiltration by the soil and utilization by plants.”
In addition, beneficial microbes living within the pervious concrete matrix can help destroy harmful pathogens, Higgins said.
Pervious concrete is installed in a way similar to conventional concrete, but a roller compacts it to give it additional strength, Higgins said. A pervious concrete pad is typically placed at a depth of 6.5 inches, then consolidated to a final height of 6 inches. Biodegradable bean or vegetable oil is applied to the material’s surface to allow the pervious concrete to remain moist and to cure properly. Following placement, a plastic cover is placed on the pad to retain moisture during the one- to two-week hydration process.
“The concrete will continue to cure for approximately 28 days,” Higgins said.
Higgins said that pervious concrete is available from local concrete companies. They can make the material for small projects such as splash blocks themselves. Likewise, depending upon their experience and skill level, owners can install the pervious concrete material personally. Contractors can install it as well.
“If I was doing a large job, I would consider using a contractor,” Higgins advised.
Higgins said the installation cost of pervious concrete is similar to that of conventional concrete, though installation by a certified pervious concrete contractor will be more expensive.
Finally, owners might realize long-term savings by using the material.
“It’s a safety issue as this material reduced injury risk because it has a high friction coefficient than most surfaces used for washing horses,” Higgins said. “Also, you’re not writing check to a water quality regulator for polluting the waters.”
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Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.