This is my second fall/winter at my farm, and already I'm overwhelmed by the amount of mud/swampiness there is. I have 4 largish fields on ~ 10 acres. I have 4 horses, should be no problem, right? WRONG! Thanks to all the rain we've had I'm walking through swampy, shoe eating, ankle deep mud and I CANNOT take it. I'm a neat freak and this is driving me crazy.
Please tell me there is some secret way to get rid of mud that only horse people know...please!
I have red, clay based soil so that doesn't help either.
I was all ready to put in dry lots early fall of this year, then the quote came back...$15,000 for a 100x200 ft (I think that's what they measured) space, which is not really feasible on a shoe-string budget. Granted, they wanted to do it right, putting down ballast stone, then landscaping fabric, then crushed stone (or whatever normal driveway gravel is) and then stone dust on top, plus digging out dirt and leveling the surface and all that great stuff landscapers do to make the area drain properly (sigh, you can tell I really know what I'm talking about).
So if there is no secret for how to get rid of the mud, at least tell me that everyone else has this problem and it's not going to kill my horses?
I feel your pain. The lower part of many of my fields are pretty messy this time of year.
That said, one of the keys is to not let those areas get over grazed. Having grass cover will help keep them solid and not ankle-deep in sucking mud.
Also, pick a field and make it your winter sacrifice area. Lots of gravel/stone dust in the high traffic areas (near waterers, gates) and try to keep the horses out of that field most of the rest of the year.
I have three fields (will be 4 come next spring) and one is the "winter field". I let the grass grow for several months with no grazing, rotating through the other fields. Then, in December, the horses go into that field. Parts of it are a muddy mess already, but generally, it'll stay not too bad because of the existing grass until sometime in February. The added benefit is feeding less hay because of the standing forage.
Once the horses go into the other pastures in early April, that field will rest for about 2-3 months, and the grass seems to regenerate.
Until you can get good sacrifice paddocks in (and trust me, I'm planning to do some good gravel/geotextile/stone dust in the high traffic areas of my sacrifice area) this is probably your best bet.
I have a "dry lot" that I lock my horses onto that turns into a swampy mess with standing water on a good third of it and boot sucking mud in the rest of it, but it saves my fields. Its not ideal, but its what I've got. They do have a lean to off the back of the barn that is built up a little bit so it stays dry under there. They also come into their stalls twice a day to eat and if its particularly cold (below freezing), they do spend the night inside. The coming in and standing on dry bedding helps their feet not get too soft. They spend most of their time standing under the lean to, but they do wander around some to stretch their legs.
The game plan for next summer is to dig out a far amount of the dirt/mud and put a few tons of gravel and crushed lime down in the high traffic areas. We have a local quarry and if you're not picky about what it looks like, it can be done inexpensively. Of course, we also have a tractor we can spread it with - if you don't ask a local farmer if he can spread it out for you. A lot of them have a ton of free time once they get everything planted in the spring and are happy to take on little projects like that for a little extra cash.
We're also having an exceptional year, with a TON of rain. I've put down very coarse hay in a few of the worst areas, just as a stop-gap measure so I can walk around & we can keep the horses in their sac paddock (because of the weather, wasting hay is cheaper then buying straw!). Half their little paddock is high & dry but they want to stand by the door where all the mud is...
Our big field with the cows on it is only muddy at the lowest point and near the water tank and we've got clay/loam.
I had a similar problem on our farm. I had to keep the horses off the worst areas. The areas around the barn were filled with 5/6ths minus in summer.
Our area had what is known as "hardpan" under the mud. No place to drain water away. I closed off the soggyest areas until Spring. There was no reason they had to be out there in that "far to the outback" pastures. I hate mud too. So I had to keep them up near the barn in the Winter.
You wil find it is the best remedy. It is probably to late this year to fill the areas in their paddocks, but in the Summer do fill in the worst of it in the paddocks and hope.
My barn was built on a raised pad of 5/8ths minus about 2 feet above the rest of that area.
I took some old pallets and made a raised sidewalk for me. Not good for the horses but I at least did not sink into the mud above my boots.
Wish you the best.
We put in our "dry lot" outselves. (Well, we did all of the fencing and just had a guy drop stone dust in "lines" in the dry lot). Spent about 4000 on stone dust. Not sure how much on fencing. But ours is 135 X 125, I believe.
Not hard to put in and is perfect. Just an idea
Charlie Brown (1994 bay TB X gelding)
White Star (2004 grey TB gelding)
My DIY dry lot cost less than $800. You really have to keep them in part of the day on rainy days or your fields get trashed!
I put landscaping fabric down on the highest-traffic areas, then 6 inches of 3/4" minus on the shed and immediate vicinity and 8" of crushed concrete on the rest of the run, sloping diagonally away towards an area that's closed off all winter. My local tractor guy spent an hour on it at $35 an hour.
Access to the pasture is gated and I only let Fen out for a couple of hours on rainy days or 24 hours when it's dry.
I have a section of the dry lot—the high side—that has no footing. This was purposeful, so that Fen has a soft place to stand or roll if he doesn't want gravel underfoot. He splits his time between the two areas and I don't worry as much about road founder since he has a soft footing choice.
I live in Washington and with the amount of rainfall that we get it is impossible to have my horses out in the pasture in the winter. From October to late May they are in a dry lot that is about an acre. The area around the barn is pit run with 5/8 minus gravel on top. It stays nice and mud free The rest of the dry lot has hogsfuel but it only minimally stops the mud. My horses usually just hang out around the barn or in their stalls.
Good luck........we fought the mud for about 9 years before we finally figured it out
RIP Sucha Smooth Whiskey
May 17,2004 - March 29, 2010
RIP San Lena Peppy
May 3, 1991 - March 11, 2010
There used to be products out that let you drive on a "lawn" - concrete squares with space for grasses. Fancy and spendy and not so good for horses.
There's nothing stopping you from just raising the grade in your sacrifice area as long as it has a little slope to drain, just put everything down on top of the existing dirt, the rock, the geotextile and then smaller rock. Much cheaper than a quasi arena.
Yeah, what everyone else said--you pretty much HAVE to have a sacrifice paddock with good drainage and some sort of crushed stone material on top. I will also note that you will have to keep the manure picked off of this area or you will end up with manure-mud on top of your gravel.
It doesn't have to be crazy expensive. $15K seems outlandish. We are lucky in that we have a nice sloping hill for our sacrifice area. My DH has a tractor, so he just scooped off the top few inches of topsoil/manure/mud and we brought in about $100 worth of crushed stone, dumped it, spread it, and packed it, just at the upper part of the paddock by the gate, water, and run-in shed, as well as inside the shed.
The paddock itself is about 100 by 100, but most of that is, frankly, muck. We really need to scrape back more of the topsoil and put down more gravel to make the usable area bigger. The nice thing is, the part that is gravel really does stay pretty dry and solid, as long as I'm vigilant about cleaning off the manure.
Ufff.. last winter I boarded at a place where they had never had horses out in the pasture in the winter....
Found out the field turns into a swamp / meandering stream. So not cool. Lots of standing water, deep mud, and good grass cover didn't help. It was the strangest thing, you would step on what looked like thick grass.... only to have your foot sink, leaving a divot which quickly filled with clear water. It was on top of a spring or something.
Any way, they bought T posts (with caps!) and ran two stands of electric rope to quadrant off the worst areas, and to let some areas rest and rotate. That may work for you, and I do not believe the expense was much.
But, I was enough to make me decide to move my horse so she wouldn’t have to go through another winter of that. Struggling through the DEEP footing at gates etc left her with sore hocks and stifles, foot issues from the constant water… it just wasn’t healthy.
Now she is on a “dry lot”, a graded paddock that has been graveled, and goes out on a pasture 12 hours a day. I am so much happier with this set up for the winter.
Edited to add... owners tried hogs fuel by the gate and other high traffic areas in the wet pasture... it was a distaster. It seemed to keep the ground even more wet, and didn't allow it to dry out on clear days.
Oh I feel your pain. This year in our part of NYS we've had a tremendous amount of rain, from April on. My pastures have sustained so much damage that we have a near permanent stream now running through my lower pastures Including a little waterfall the water has gouged the earth do much-it was never like this before. To compound matters it was never dry enough to get equipment in to correct the issue-the stream up from us, still on our property but not in pasture, that needs dredging.
My horses drink from the new stream so I hardly have to fill their troughs that's how much water we not have in our pastures.
Just this week I took all 18 horses off their respective pastures and put them in the barn, not b/c of rain or snow but to give my pastures a chance to actually 'rest'. Normally we're pretty frozen, the ground I mean, by now but not this year. In fact later next week they're calling for 50's again.
I don't have the acreage to have sacrifice pastures so we'll just do the best we can. Next spring come hell or high water we're taking care of the problem!
Try living on a flood plain. The barn floods because the township diverted the rain water from the road and ran the drainage pipe directly beside the wall of the very old, stone foundation bank barn. Of course we sit at the bottom of a hill, you know gravity and all.
There is a hidden underground spring located right below the one and only access gate to both pastures. When it rains and the ground saturates you can literally see the river coming out of the ground. Not to mention the river that comes from underneath the barn intersects with the underground spring. Really makes your day.
The creek regularly swells over its banks, so the one pasture that remains decent is not accessible. I am also using the word “decent” loosely.
Yes, one day you will learn to laugh. I laugh in the face of rain!!
Thankfully, the top half of one of the pastures is on the top of the slope, they stay there and only venture through the entrance gate when they must.
One day I am just going to plow the Fin place over.
Windward Farm, Washougal, WA- our work in progress, our money pit, our home!
$15K for a sacrifice paddock?! That would pay for a decent outdoor ring here. You really, really don't need to go all out like that. Seriously....
The DIY version cost us under $2K: buy geotextile cloth, roll out on existing paddock surface (dirt, some grass), making sure to overlap edges a good 6 inches. Put rocks or whatever on the edges to hold down. Order 5/8 minus gravel. Carefully spread gravel with the tractor to a depth of 3". Drive over repeatedly with tractor. Pause, and admire ones' hard work and the soon-to-be-mud-free paddock.
Order screenings/pea gravel. Spread over 5/8 gravel to a depth of 3 more inches. Pack with tractor. Put horses in and crack a cold brew.
Did this 5 years ago now (I think) and it is still fabulous. Before I did this, I had a 80 x 80 area of knee deep mud by December for one year. I vowed never again. My pastures have standing water on them all winter, so no one goes out unless we get a dry patch of several days, they stay in the paddock.
Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!