Written by: Valerie Mellema
It’s been raining for what feels like weeks. It looks like we’re finally coming out of it, but our pastures are still pretty full to the point that a few ducks have moved in! We’re fortunate that our arena is sand and the majority of the areas in our paddocks where the horses have cleared the grass are also sand, but areas around the barn where the traffic is high are quite muddy. Moving the tractor in an out doesn’t help much either. So, while you’re thankful for the rain but secretly hoping for drier days, what do you do to manage all of the mud?
A large part of mud management is manure management. One of the reasons we love manure for our gardens is because it retains moisture. However, if we have a lot of manure, dirt and a whole lot of rain, we’ve got a recipe for some rather nasty mud. Keeping your barn area manure free is the first step in reducing mud. Keeping the manure picked up in your pastures and in particularly high trafficked areas will help keep the mud to a minimum. By removing the manure from the mix, you’re ground should also dry out more quickly when the sun does come out.
Water troughs and automatic waterers also play an important part in managing mud. If you rely on ponds and other natural sources of water, you may actually be causing more harm than good. Horses will create a muddy bog on the banks of your ponds. Plus, if there’s manure involved, that manure filters into the pond and contaminates it as well as any sources downstream.
Separate Wet Weather Paddocks
For those who deal with a lot of water saturation, an ideal situation is to designate certain higher ground pasture areas for muddy weather. These areas will be sacrificed to the weather, but will save your other pastures from becoming muddy messes.
Smaller Turnout Groups
If you typically turnout several horses into a pasture area, try reducing the number to a couple at a time and rotating turnout time between the horses. A couple of horses will create less of a mess than several horses stomping around at once.
If you’ve done all you can, but you still have a lot of standing water, you might need to install some sort of drainage system to help move the water elsewhere. Creating ditches or adding a French drain type system to certain areas around your barn will help you move the water to less trafficked areas.
In the end, I almost feel guilty for complaining about rain and the resulting mud. After the drought that we’ve been through over the last five years we really need all the moisture we can get, but at the same time, I can’t wait for consistently warmer days and to get back in the saddle!
To read more from Valerie Mellema, you can visit her website at http://grayhorsepublishing.com