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Deep hoofprints in frozen mud

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  • Deep hoofprints in frozen mud

    Hi everyone,

    I hope this is the right place to post this question.

    I'm actually a boarder, but I've got a maintenance issue.

    Yesterday was warm enough for the mud to melt, and despite my instructions not to turn my (recovering from an injury) horse out if it's muddy, the b.o. let her out in a very deeply muddy paddock. Today it all froze back up again, so now there are deep (6-8") post-hole style hoofprints frozen in the mud. Today I came out to find my horse out there, wobbling through this chop, unsteady on her feet and struggling not to get stuck in the holes -- yikes!

    The b.o. claims it's safe because they go carefully through this footing, but I know that if something spooks her she won't be so ginger about it. Plus, the worst of it is by the gate and in the areas she likes to spend time in, so it's not something she can/will just avoid. I'm not happy, but I'm not able to jump ship on this boarding situation right now.

    If she is to go out at all in the next weeks/months I need to make the footing safe. I don't have heavy equipment (nor would the b.o. let me bring any onto the property), but the b.o. would be amenable to adding or moving around material manually, as long as I don't change the consistency of the footing too much (e.g. he wouldn't want something like gravel).

    Is there anything that can be done to make this safe? Do you think it would work to tamp soil or sand into the holes? Could I manually pound down the unevenness with some tool like a sledgehammer or would that be insane to attempt?

    Today I spent a stupid amount of time trying to relocate whatever clumps and clods I could pry up into the deep holes, but that was a pretty feeble attempt at improving it.

    Any advice is greatly appreciated!
    Evolutionary science by day; keeping a certain red mare from winning a Darwin award the rest of the time!

  • #2
    Tractor and rake is needed...if it's frozen like a rock and the rake just bounces then use the FEL.

    I wouldn't want my horse out on only that type of footing either, even if it didn't have any injuries. Trying to mince around on that even staying slow and careful causes sore feet, sore legs and sore backs. I'd leave her in and handwalk at least once daily in whatever groomed footing there is. (ring/arena?)

    I know this happens in areas that have big temperature swings, but there has to be somewhere they can move a teeny bit and stand that's not chunky, choppy, rock solid frozen ground with big holes in it.

    Does the BO have/use a tractor?

    I raked my paddock yesterday late afternoon so it would be smooth before the freeze hit. And even then, my guys were a bit tippy-toe today since the mud and rake left frozen ridges. Nothing bad, but I went back out this afternoon and levelled it with the bigger rake.
    You jump in the saddle,
    Hold onto the bridle!
    Jump in the line!
    ...Belefonte

    Comment


    • #3
      One option would be wheelbarrow or bucket load stall leavings into the area. Come spring/summer, scrape the resulting muck out and have a load of sand dropped in. Once you get a good base of sand going, the problem is greatly alleviated. Good for you for being concerned.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by x-halt-salute View Post
        If she is to go out at all in the next weeks/months I need to make the footing safe. I don't have heavy equipment (nor would the b.o. let me bring any onto the property), but the b.o. would be amenable to adding or moving around material manually, as long as I don't change the consistency of the footing too much (e.g. he wouldn't want something like gravel).

        Is there anything that can be done to make this safe? Do you think it would work to tamp soil or sand into the holes? Could I manually pound down the unevenness with some tool like a sledgehammer or would that be insane to attempt?

        Today I spent a stupid amount of time trying to relocate whatever clumps and clods I could pry up into the deep holes, but that was a pretty feeble attempt at improving it.

        Any advice is greatly appreciated!
        bolding mine. Really? So mud-sucking footing is the type of footing your BO is trying to achieve? Surely you jest. Hopefully in the spring your BO can come in (or have someone else come in) and scrape out the mud and top it off with something less icky, like sand or screenings (or small gravel) so you can prevent this situation in the future.

        Does your barn have a pile of sand/screenings that you could have access to, for dumping into the holes? I'd fill a wheelbarrow and do that. I keep mine at home and I kick myself sometimes for turning out when it's mucky and letting mine make 3 inch holes. I'd be really upset over 6-8 inch holes!

        If you can't do something like that, are there any extra rubber mats you could lay at least around the gate area so you could get in and out the gate safely? (I know, "extra" rubber mats, what are those?)

        Comment


        • #5
          Well, I'll tell you this: Don't take used shavings/manure out there to fill in the holes. You'll just end up with a muckier mess when it melts.

          Gravel will just sink into the mud and make a mess. (I know you said this isn't an option, but mentioning it nonetheless)

          The best solution I've found involves a tractor with a FEL that you can use to scrape. If it's a fairly small area near the gate that is problematic, a carpet remnant can help. It's messy to remove, but it can help.

          In general, most barns I've been at A) don't turn out when it's that muddy in hopes of preventing injury and tearing up the paddock or B) perform maintenance to keep the footing more even or C) install appropriate substrate or drainage options to keep the area more dry throughout the year.
          A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

          Might be a reason, never an excuse...

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            Thanks, everyone.

            I wish I were kidding about the b.o. being perfectly content with the footing as-is. It's a quaint place, and he has a little more rough-and-ready approach to horse care than me (or, I'd venture, the majority of modern horsepeople).

            Thank you for all of the ideas. There is no tractor at the barn (no real arena -- just a grassy riding area). I'm sure the b.o. will not be receptive to having the mud scraped out and replaced with better footing, even if I were to pay for it. Which means that in the medium-term I should probably be looking for a new barn.

            For now, I could maybe get some sand at the hardware store and fill in the deep holes. I may even be able to get my hands on some used rubber mats at a good price to cover the gate area if the b.o. will let me...

            I hope I can get this done soon -- she's in today, but I now don't trust the b.o. to observe my requests w.r.t. footing conditions in which my horse should be kept in.
            Evolutionary science by day; keeping a certain red mare from winning a Darwin award the rest of the time!

            Comment


            • #7
              I'm dealing with the same this week, we had a warm wet spell and then arctic freeze immediately after so the high traffic mud areas look like the surface of the moon and the horses are taking mincing little steps as they pick their way over.

              I happen to have picked up some 4x6 stall mats for another project, so since they weren't in use I just threw them down and made a path. The horses were immediately thrilled and have been using the mat path exclusively. I expect the mats to do some shifting, and with the snow we had last night they are a bit slippery in spots where its melted and refroze, but its infinitely better than the footing otherwise and took almost zero effort.

              Whats nice too is that the heavy black mats absorb the sun and warm up. When I put them down it was over really rough footing and they were skewed and bouncy in spots, but in just 24 hours they have warmed the earth beneath just enough to melt it and level it a bit. They are getting more stable and even with sun and traffic.

              I board too. Mats are removable and mine should I ever decide to leave, unlike footing improvements like gravel.

              Big 4x6 stall mats are almost a half inch thick and probably weigh in the 70-100# range a piece. I am convinced this project has been successful because they are so thick and heavy. I don't think thinner lighter mats would work nearly as well.

              I can't blame a BO for not wanting a boarder to improve the footing. Some people are very fussy about gravel type and size for horse traffic, and there can be dangerous debris in other types of "fill". I once put down some hogsfuel in a muddy area as a quick fix (what a mess that was on so many levels). The next day my horse came in impaled through the frog with a huge thorn, no doubt from the hogsfuel. How awful it would have been if I shared these paddocks with others and someone else's horse had been impaled through my actions. Even the best intentions can go awry.
              Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.

              Comment


              • #8
                I think that if you are boarding at a barn that doesn't even own a tractor, you are fighting a losing battle.

                If someone wanted to go put sand in the mud holes by my gates, I wouldn't mind, but to be honest it is just a very brief solution and it will all be lost as soon as the ground thaws, and it will be back to the same when it freezes again. Luckily for me, I have many areas for my horses to go where there aren't deep holes/ruts in the frozen mud....I realize that is not the case for you but I'm not sure you'll find satisfaction at the barn you're at now.

                The time to fix the "mud" is in early summer; when it's not soupy mud and not frozen. So, if you can stick around for a while you might be able to improve it; but without a tractor w/ a front-end loader (or some other form of equipment that is brought in), I'm not sure it will be very effective.

                Sorry - just my $.02. We have heavy clay and short of scraping off the top foot and adding gravel, it's something we just try to deal with -- alternating gates, for example, and trying to feed in areas far away from muddy spots so they do not get worse...

                Comment


                • #9
                  I think the OP was kind of looking at a very temporary solution for the moment, so her horse doesn't crack a leg in the holes. Even filling with sawdust/manure temporarily (if you knew you would be back to scrape it out) would be better than holes. But if the BO isn't going to do that, then don't put sawdust and manure in the holes!
                  I don't know where you're at, OP, but if your weather is like mine right now (no thaw in sight), you could just fill the holes with water. I thought of that after mentioning sand/screenings. Sure, when it does thaw, it will make it a little more muddy but it's better than your horse busting a leg.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I think if you're seriously considering moving on, then what buck22 said is best...mats that you can take with you. They are expensive, and HEAVY, but they will provide your horse with at least a small area that's walkable.
                    The barn where I board has had the worst year ever for mud, and even though we've added fill and sand throughout the year and cleared the paddocks, even a day of having horses out with temps hovering around freezing will produce hoof holes, and then they freeze...it is a mess!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Mats aren't that expensive - $30 to $35 each when they're on sale (which regularly happens). Buy a couple and simply take them with you if you leave. Big VISE-GRIPS are very useful for dragging stallmats around. They are rather heavy.

                      good luck

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by oldpony66 View Post
                        I think the OP was kind of looking at a very temporary solution for the moment, so her horse doesn't crack a leg in the holes. Even filling with sawdust/manure temporarily (if you knew you would be back to scrape it out) would be better than holes. But if the BO isn't going to do that, then don't put sawdust and manure in the holes!
                        I don't know where you're at, OP, but if your weather is like mine right now (no thaw in sight), you could just fill the holes with water. I thought of that after mentioning sand/screenings. Sure, when it does thaw, it will make it a little more muddy but it's better than your horse busting a leg.
                        Oh, yikes! I would not fill them with water! Why would you want a bunch of lumpy areas surrounded by small spots of ice? So scary. I'd probably try the mats. At the barn where I board, the BO does sometimes spread used shavings/manure from the manure pile if there is a sheet of ice...the heat from the manure pile contents slightly melts the ice, and then the shavings (and, er, waste) sort of bind to the ice to create an area with traction. I don't mind, and much prefer it to having my horse out on a sheet of ice. It does basically "level" uneven areas for a while as well.

                        These paddocks are also flattened at periods of time too, using appropriate farm equipment....so more goes into the maintenance than just spreading the poop pile into the paddock. But for a temporary fix...I might try spreading some used or unused bedding if the BO will allow it.

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          Well, I started filling in with sand, but realized it would take a truckload to fill in all the deep holes. In the meantime, the b.o. started turning her out again contrary to my request to leave her in due to the footing. So she's back on stall confinement with handwalking before/after my workday for now -- I really don't think I can trust the b.o.'s judgment re: footing and turnout.

                          Fingers crossed that I can get some mats out there soon for at least the gate area (thanks for the tip re: vice grips)!
                          Evolutionary science by day; keeping a certain red mare from winning a Darwin award the rest of the time!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by FineAlready View Post
                            Oh, yikes! I would not fill them with water! Why would you want a bunch of lumpy areas surrounded by small spots of ice? So scary.
                            Why scary? A hoof-sized piece of ice surrounded by frozen mud is hardly going to be more dangerous than a hoof-sized hole that goes down 8 inches. And it sounds like the OP is talking about a lot of holes here. Trying to be practical, OP said she didn't have access or permission for gravel, she could top the ice with something for traction.

                            Yes, for traction, topping ice with shavings is a good idea. I do that myself as well as old hay or screenings if I have them available. But I only worry about somewhat large areas of ice, not a 3 or 4 inch spot.

                            OP, yikes, that sounds like a lot of holes. I hope you get a thaw soon!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Your BO sounds like my tenant! Has ruined two grass paddocks so far and doesn't get the concept. It is very frustrating especially when they aren't doing the rehab or paying the vet bills. I would move the horse out of there ASAP.

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