I’ve lived in different areas of the country and seen many ways to deal with muddy pastures and paddocks. Some places don’t really have to deal with mud while others have lovingly nicknames spring ‘mud season’.
I currently live in Ohio. If I had HUGE pastures the horses might not tear up the footing but I don’t have huge pastures. Even in huge pastures the gate areas or water trough areas often get very muddy.
For our area I saw these choices:
- Do nothing. Accept the mud, limit the horses time out in the paddocks until dry. If I did turn them out in deep mud, accept the risk of pulled shoes or strains.
- Use mulch. This option can work and is often chosen if people have access to the material or if they are concerned about bruising horses feet. Mulch needs to be replaced fairly often in muddy areas as it breaks down.
- Stone or stone with fabric under it. Stone holds up the strongest. The downside is the cost. The upside is not having to replace it as often. The need to replace would come from the stone sinking into the ground which depends on your base and the size stone you choose. The fabric can slow or stop the stone from sinking which is why they often use fabric designed for this use under driveways.
We did an experiment last year and ordered a large load of stone (20 tons) for a cost of about $250.00 in our area. We split this load into the gate area of both paddocks. In our area, we have access to something often called river rock which is 3-4 inch mostly round stones. We put the stone down when the ground was muddy and soft so the stone could sink into the ground instead of rolling around on top of the solid ground in the summer.
Some people worry about stone bruising the horse’s feet. After our year-long experiment, we had no bruises from the stones. We trail ride frequently on ground that is stony and I like the idea that the horse’s hooves are being exposed to this material when they are turned out. The hooves can adapt if given the chance. While we have had no issues with bruising from the stone, I did have a horse bruise her hoof on the frozen ruts of mud out in the turnout. This lead me to want to stone more of the paddock.
I’m really pleased with the way the stone turned out and how it is breaking in. The horses seem to appreciate the high ‘dry’ ground during the rain and I enjoy taking hay out to the run in shed without fear of losing my boots!
Our total cost for the project was one load of stone delivered at roughly $250.00 and rental of a bobcat for the day of about $300.00. We did use the bobcat for several other projects so the full cost isn’t an accurate reflection. We could have rented the bobcat for only four hours at a lower rate.
Do you have mud in your area? How do you deal with it?