Winter is upon us and with that come the challenges of owning a horse in the cold, wet weather including dealing with mud. We know that keeping your horses and property mud free isn’t an easy task, but it is important. Check out the top eight mud tips to help you this winter.
Thoughtful placement of gutters and downpipes
When you design buildings and sheds around your property it is important to ensure gutters and downpipes are properly installed and divert water to appropriate locations. Drainage devices are easily retrofitted to existing buildings as well. Make sure you have a regular maintenance plan; clean gutters annually and replace or repair broken downpipes often.
25mm of rain on a 12m-15m roof can produce as much as 2,300 litres of water a year. That is a lot of water that contributes to mud accumulation around your stables, riding arena or loafing barns if it isn’t diverted properly.
Establish extra drainage
Even if you have put together a carefully thought out site-plan and have properly functioning gutters and downpipes on all buildings, there is still a chance you will find problem areas where water accumulates, resulting in excess mud. As soon as you have identified these areas, do something about it before the mud gets out of hand. Water bars are a great way to divert water, acting as a speedbump that redirects water to an area with better drainage.
French drains are also an effective and easy way to prevent mud build-up. To build a French drain, dig a ditch and fill it with drain rock and direct it to a place of better drainage. If you install these in paddocks where horses are turned out into make sure you cover the drain with gravel to protect your horses’ feet.
Keep it clean
Animal waste makes bad mud worse – deeper, gooier and messier. It also turns the mud into a perfect environment for flies to flourish and microorganisms to accumulate. It is important to clean your paddocks out regularly, especially gravelled spaces and areas with high horse traffic. Really well managed farms go as far as cleaning manure out from bigger pastures. However, cleaning areas with large accumulation, combined with intermittent dragging to spread remaining manure, encouraging it to break down, is a good alternative.
Feed your horses carefully
Make a habit to not feed your horses on grass or pre-existing mud. Instead, place feeders on gravel or any other solid footing you have on your property. Feeding hay in a grass paddock contributes to vegetation breakdown and leftover scraps break down into the soil, adding organic material into the mix and making mud worse. It is important to rake and clean gravel areas regularly to prevent hay from breaking down and contributing to mud build-up.
Avoid overcrowding paddocks
One of the most important factors for keeping paddocks and pastures free from excessive mud is to avoid overcrowding. Horses are large and active animals that tear up the grass and churn up soil as they cavort around paddocks. They are also extremely efficient grazers, grazing grass down low which contributes to vegetation breakdown. Less horses in one area means less mud, as a rule of thumb each horse should have between one and two acres of pasture available for a full-turned out lifestyle.
Schedule rest times
Even while keeping down the traffic, paddocks and pastures need at least a month or two of complete rest every year. It is a good idea to plan your turn-out schedule so you always have an empty space. Block off areas that need rejuvenation with temporary fences to give the grass a chance to regrow.
Manage the grass
Healthy grass instead of mud is every horse owner’s goal. If grass is healthy it is less likely to break down under the demands of grazing horses. Happy paddocks require a careful management plan which starts with collecting a soil sample every few years to submit for analysis to a lab. Based on these results you can determine what additives your soil requires including fertiliser, lime and other minerals.
Occasionally over-seeding allows grass to fortify and keep growing strong. Although it is best to seed while paddocks are resting, you can still get good results if the area isn’t overcrowded. In fact, horse hooves can push the seed into the soil and encourage it to grow.
Protect your horses legs
No matter how careful you are with maintaining a mud-free property, there will still be mud from time to time. There are a couple of different strategies you can consider to protect your horses’ legs and prevent skin infections.
Avoid trimming hair away from the fetlocks and pasterns, if possible, long feathers on your horse’s fetlocks provide a good barrier from moisture and will prevent mud from contacting the skin. Make sure you clean them several times a week and inspect the skin underneath to ensure it is still healthy. If you need to trim your horses’ legs, consider a thick application of Sudocrem over the pastern and heel area to act as a moisture barrier and to stop bacteria or other organisms from gaining a presence.
Information credits: horseandrider.com