Make Plans for Mud

Sep 26, 2022

Dry, summer conditions will soon be replaced by mud season. For many horse owners, keeping their pastures and barn area clean during this time may seem like an impossible task, but it is important to plan ahead to create a dry environment for your horses to live in throughout the fall and winter months.
Not only can mud turn basic chores into a hassle, but it can also be damaging to your horse’s health. Horses that stand in mud for extended periods of time are more likely to develop hoof issues such as thrush and founder. Bad footing can also lead to leg injuries such as muscle strain and torn ligaments and may cause other skin conditions such as scratches and rain scald.
Follow the suggestions below to prevent mud from overrunning your farm:
Plan for high traffic
Before fencing off a new pasture or changing entry points, consider which areas will be prone to high traffic. Horses tend to congregate around gates, sheds, waterers, and hay feeders — if possible, move these to naturally higher, drier locations. If you are unable to move the gate leading into the pasture, consider adding an eight to twelve-inch layer of wood chips to prevent ruts from forming from the frequent traffic of horses and humans. Fine gravel can also be used to create a barrier from the mud, although you will need to frequently clean your horse’s hooves to prevent abscesses from forming.
Create a sacrifice area
            Pasture can be easily over-grazed as new forage growth slows during the fall and winter months. Fence off a “sacrifice area” in which to turn your horses out to give your main pasture time to recover. Don’t wait for your main pasture to become a muddy mess before moving your horses off it, though — rotate your horses consistently between the main pasture and sacrifice pasture to keep the grass healthy. While in the sacrifice pasture, give your horses access to clean hay to account for the reduced availability of grass.
Keep pastures clean
            Maintaining pastures will help to eliminate standing water and mud. Regularly clean out manure and excess hay that break down as organic matter in the soil, holding water and contributing to mud problems. Use feeders that hang on the fence where you can scoop out the feed that falls to the ground or place a rubber mat under your feeding area. Follow a consistent mowing routine to reduce weeds and avoid overgrazing using a sacrifice area as described above.
Improve run-off
            The roofline of your barn, covered arena, or shed can create a considerable amount of run-off, especially during a downpour or snow melt. Install properly sized gutters to divert the water away, either into the ground or a drainage system. Regularly clean the gutters and use gutter guards and filters to keep debris from clogging up the system. Select a drainage system based on your land’s topography — options may include ditches, French drains, and catch basins.
            Your local Co-op has many of the supplies you need to reduce mud on the farm, including gates and fencing to create new pastures, drainage supplies, scoops and shovels, feeders, mats, and pasture seed. Reach out to the store for more pasture management tips.
For more content like this, check out the latest issue of The Cooperator

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