Updated: May 4, 2021
It’s that time of year again! The rain has returned and with rain comes mud. Did you know in Oregon alone, we get approximately 44 inches of rain per year? That’s a lot of rain with the potential to cause problems for our equine animals.
Mud management for our horses is very important as mud causes bacterial and fungal problems leading to foot abscesses, mud fever and thrush. In addition, mud causes soft hooves which can lead to heavy wearing on different parts of the hoof such as the heels. Mud is a breeding ground for bacteria so eliminating it from your paddock is beneficial for the health of your horses.
There are several methods for mud management, the most important thing to do is plan. When designing a paddock/pasture choose a high ground with good natural water runoff. Mud happens in high traffic area where water can’t drain. Installing a French drain can be helpful around the outside of your paddocks as well. A French drain is a trench that is dug along the paddock and filled with gravel. As water runs off into the drain the trench leads the water away from the paddock to a sacrifice area. You can also slope your pastures at a 1-2 % grade redirecting water away from buildings.
One of the best ways to fix a muddy pasture is to fill in the low spots where water accumulates and place down a footing grid system. This can be done many ways, but an easy start is by placing a layer of cloth fabric down over high traffic areas or the entire paddock if you choose. Once fabric is in place, then apply a grid system followed by of 6 inches of footing of your choice. This helps allow for proper drainage and keeps your paddock mud free. Some additional options for mud management are to pick you pastures and rest your pastures on a rotation schedule if possible. Trampling causes compaction of the soil, loss of nutrients, and poor drainage ability. Rotating pastures will help keep vegetation and nutrients in your pastures for many years to come.
There are many different footing options out there as well. Each footing has its advantages and disadvantages. Some common footing choices are as follows; Crushed rock, gravel, sand, shavings, straw, and hogs fuel (wood ships, shreds). Unfortunately, hogs fuel decomposes quickly over time and sand can cause other problems such as sand colic. Gravel or crushed stone on the other hand can be a great choice, although it becomes uncomfortable for the horse to stand on if it is larger than 5/8”. On a budget you can use a mixture of footings and apply gravel to the high traffic areas only. Just remember if your going to lay anything down make sure to put a cloth fabric layers under it to ensure that water can run through without releasing mud to surface. One last recommendation if you still have mud in your pasture, is to find a dry spot such as a stall put your horse in at night to dry out. Bedding also impacts this as pellets will help the feet dry out faster than shavings. These are just a few ways to help manage mud during our rainy season that is quickly approaching.