Our farm is turning into a muddy mess...and it's only November 2nd! Here's my dilemma, and I'm hoping someone may have some ideas...
Our property is around 15 acres, but very little of it is actual pasture - it is mostly wooded. We have severely limited the amount of horses we will take, and babysit and rotate the grass pastures that we do have, but it also has to double as our riding arena. The big field that we mainly ride in has a lot of trouble with standing water on half of it, so it is really getting torn up when horses are turned out.
Budget is obviously an issue - we are a startup backyard barn, so I can't do any crazy fixes. But does anyone have any ideas for something I can do to deter the mud/standing water on this side of the field, yet still have grass? We have dealt with muddy paddock entrances with pit gravel walkways or wood chips, and these things work great, but I can't sacrific our precious grass and put down footing!!! Thoughts??? TIV!!
I don't know where you're located, but my area has had record-breaking rainfall, an extra 4 inches. I have areas that never dried up at all this year. Never happened before and I've been here 12 years. I just got a bunch of crushed stone delivered, yay, can't wait to work on thatand have concluded that I have to create some more "no horse zones" between the barn and paddocks so I will be able to avoid breaking a leg/losing a muck boot when walking to paddock to throw hay. You have to have sacrifice areas that are just never going to be nice but I think you also have to subdivide and protect some areas depending on the weather. Don't know if this helps but that's what I'm dealing with...
Since you're just starting out, now is a good time to watch and observe the patterns... where is it wet, where does it drain, etc. Like HPFarmette said you will simply have to subdivide and make areas to destroy and areas to keep nice. I keep a very small area with the run-in that is about 30x50 that is for when it is too bad to even go out on what should be the sacrifice paddock. There's at least 12 inches of gravel/screenings in there and there's spots that still get a little mucky. I use the thick Tractor Supply rubber mats in the highest traffic areas in the run-in door, heck I even have the old bedliner out of a truck near one gate and that helps some, tho' it's a bit rednecky (not that I care, I just don't like having my boots sucked off). On another gate, I just use gravel because it slopes the "right" way for draining. On one sloping area that goes the "wrong" way I managed to get those no-fatigue mats with the holes in them to work as a way of not having a clay slip-n-slide. You might find you need several solutions depending on what's going on. It's always a work in progress!
We just built a barn and had some limestone screenings/rock dust hauled in for certain areas. After a VERY droughty fall we had our first couple inches of rain and the graded dirt areas are already glue-like muck, and the wet screenings are nearly dry and don't stick to boots/hooves even when damp.
Relatively cheap, easy to move into areas where you need it; I didn't like the idea at first but have to admit that it's a huge improvement over our usual mess.
We used to pen them up in the smallest area before the muck got churned up. It got hideously nasty in that area, which was I think 14 by 30 for two horses, then I built a floor in the run in, or half of it, and they'd stand up there happily. This is back in the day when wood barn floors were common in my area so the idea wasn't too farfetched. Then you wait till it dries up for a day and let them out.
However, this works for us here now (and back then) because we have some slope everywhere, no perfectly flat or areas of standing water.
We had been using two 16 by 16 pens set up on an old abandoned parking area that still had a good foot or so of base and we did get some muck, more with the old guy who is a stall walker. We are right now in the middle of building a rock wall foundation on that spot for the new run in/feed room and putting in probably a foot of rock and fines over geotextile. The geotextile or "cow carpet" (or recycled polypropylene feed bags if I feel like trying an experiment where it doesn't matter) are a very important component - it goes on top of your prepped wannabe mud and keeps the rock and gravel from sinking down and making rocky mud.
The pens are moved to raw dirt and boy howdy is it a churned up mess in there, slope or no slope. The sooner we get this done the happier I'll be!
The fanciest places I have seen have brought in heavy equipment and completely rearranged the lay of the land so as to create drainage. They also use tiles and subterranean drainage pipes under something like an outdoor arena, create a crown in the center and make sure that roof drains are piped to some drainage way, either underground storm drains or a natural feature left alone or a man made surface feature such as a swale.
It can be done on the cheap but your neighbors will be calling you the gopher (or mole or groundhog) because you'll be forever shifting dirt. Or rocks, or gravel. And depending on your state and whether they consider your standing water to be a wetland - well - you just don't want to touch a wetland. Trust me.
What quite a number of gaited people do here is ride on the gravel driveway. If you let the center grow grass through the gravel or cover it with fines you can get decent footing in the soggiest of times.
Take some time to read up on drainage and grading and landscaping and suchlike then by next winter you may have happier circumstances. And good luck - I really hate mud, and I hate watching the horses slip and make foot long divots when the ground is too soggy still - I have a set up much like yours - 15 acres, 60% wooded and sloping to boot! I NEED my grass!