Here in the Mid-South, we’re currently in the transitional months between winter and summer that are known for being soggy. In the equestrian world, these rainy months are notorious for creating mud in pastures, paddocks, and around the barn. For many horse owners and riders, spring mud can create messes and safety hazards as well.
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help manage and minimize mud this spring.
First, avoid overcrowding. Too many hooves stomping and churning up the ground kills the grass; these grassless, dirt areas are then easily turned to mud during the next rainfall. Also, remove manure from your pasture or paddock every few days, if possible. Spring rain plus manure can quickly turn turnout areas into muddy nightmares. Since one horse can create around 50 pounds of manure daily, it is necessary to pick small pastures, paddocks, and turnout areas routinely for mud management.
If you notice certain areas around the barn staying consistently muddy this spring, consider installing gutters to control water runoff. If you already have a runoff system, ensure your gutters are free of leaves and other debris. Redirect the rainwater from the foundation of the barn or shed and prevent it from flowing into high-traffic areas. Consider redirecting into rain barrels or other portable water containers to store and use the rainwater for later use, such as watering spring gardens or flower beds.
High traffic areas at gates, barn entrances, or around water troughs and salt/mineral blocks are likely to become slippery, muddy messes this spring. Providing dry footing is a way to combat this mud. Geotextile pads are available on the market to place in areas where it’s impossible to deter congregating equines or decrease foot traffic. These flexible, grid-like pads provide dry footing during the soggiest of weather. However, if these pads don’t fit your current budget, consider laying down sand, gravel, or some other suitable substance that will create safe footing for both you and your horse while also allowing water to drain.
Creating a buffer by fencing off the area in between your pasture and an area at risk for holding water is another way to fight against mud this spring. Planting something in these buffer areas is a great, organic way to stabilize the soil and create a means of absorption, thus minimizing mud.
Not only is mud a safety hazard for both the equine and equestrian, but it also becomes a breeding ground for parasites, which can cause painful hoof abscess and other equine hoof ailments. Horses exposed to excess mud this spring should have their hooves cleaned and inspected regularly for cracks and openings that can easily allow fungi and bacteria that cause thrush and other unwanted hoof problems to enter the hoof. Check with your veterinarian first, but you may want to consider a hoof-health spray or paint-on solution as a means to be proactive if you find it hard to keep your horse out of the mud this spring.
It is important to note that spring is a good time to check your fences. Wet, muddy ground can create shifts in your fence posts, and, therefore, decrease the integrity of your fence. Also, don’t plan on fertilizing as long as there’s spring mud. Muddy areas can cause fertilizer runoff into local water sources.