3 fixes for mud in horse pastures

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: 

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?


  1. Kate Swarm on October 10, 2023 at 9:15 pm

    I am interested to hear an update! How has the river rock held up? Any lameness because of it?

    • Stacy Westfall on November 6, 2023 at 11:57 am

      The river rock created a great base. Never had a lameness issue from it. The horses have tracked mud over it from the back parts that I didn’t stone. I recently added limestone screenings in a think layer to help reduce the slimy mud feeling from them tracking the mud up.
      I do see where there could be a concern with the bigger stones…but our paddocks have stone popping up ‘naturally’ so we had that risk going already.
      If concerned, someone could always cover the base more than shown in the video with smaller material.

  2. HorseWeb on March 1, 2021 at 4:54 pm

    We have a fairly rainy climate here in Lafayette, Louisiana (with a lot of mud during the rain season), and you’re absolutely correct — any cheapest gravel is the best option to deal with mud. Fabric sounds like a bonus. Haven’t tried that before.

  3. Krystal on February 14, 2021 at 9:31 am

    Ohhhh to be free of the muddy MESS that we used to call a pasture!! I’m in central NC and we have gotten so much rain this winter. Literally no more than two dry days before it rains again for several days. I expect mud at gates and paths but at the moment EVERYTHING is mud. Our creek flooded and collapsed the crossway to the bigger pastures so horses are confined to the two smaller pastures near the house until it dries out enough to have a bridge built. We were walking them down the road to the other side daily so they’d get some time in the larger pastures but one made injured her front leg in the mud down there so we only do that when its dry enough now. We have been spreading straw bases in the worst areas and that does help but I dunno how long we can do that before the ground is ruined so bad that the grass won’t grow back in the spring….plus the feed stores are running out of straw! We have also been moving the hay hut around because they drop so much around it, that’s helping to cover the mud there…I’m just PRAYING for dryer days

  4. A Matthews on April 8, 2019 at 6:27 pm

    After watching your video, we tried to get a large load of river rock (40 tons) and we were told close to $2000 in Indiana. Should I be asking for something other than river rock?? That seems like a much higher price than the $250 for 20 tons you received. Can I ask where you got yours from?

    • Stacy Westfall on April 8, 2019 at 6:32 pm

      YIKES! That is a lot more than mine but I think as you move around the country the prices will vary depending on what is more available. The biggest reason I went with round was to reduce sharp edges. At our other property, we used something about the same size (around 3 inch stone) that was rough and then topped it with finer gravel, in a similar way that you would build a driveway. That worked too and happened to cost less in that area of the country. Mine came out of Loudonville, Ohio.

  5. Sally Spencer on April 1, 2019 at 8:18 pm

    I’m still wistful for mud…my mud has yet to appear, but is poised like a crocus needing warm spring weather before it decides to emerge from under 8″ of ice on the north side of the barn. Eventually we’ll bring in a load of pea stone to the wettest sections of the paddock. I think patience is part of the solution for mud problems!

  6. Candy on March 30, 2019 at 12:34 am

    We tried pea gravel in our dry lot (on a hill) in the areas the horses traveled most. Both (barefoot) horses went lame in a few days. We had to remove all the gravel…now we just let the horses deal with the mud. Since it IS on a hill, and we get a lot of wind after storms, it usually dries quickly. We DO have a considerable quantity of wood chips (from trees we had removed) and I’m tempted to try THAT…but it would be even harder than gravel to remove if it doesn’t work out.

    • Stacy Westfall on March 30, 2019 at 9:24 am

      I need to ask my farrier friend again but I think I remember him saying that the small gravel is more likely to cause abscesses than the large stone. I wonder if our small experiment by the gate combined with riding on rocky areas had prepared the hooves?

    • Julie Morton on October 24, 2022 at 1:18 pm

      if your horses eat the wood chips for any reason they can colic

  7. Gina Bartley on March 29, 2019 at 2:33 pm

    I live in great falls Montana and it is extremely muddy here more like clay I used the 1 and a quarter road mix lot smaller stones with the sand mixture it work nice. I also found that horse manure put in a LG pile after 3yrs can also be used to spread and it sheds water. But only after it has completely broken down and looks like drk sand

  8. Annie on March 29, 2019 at 11:10 am

    Shale works good. We used it in the gateways b/c it was the worst. Pack a good thick layer down. We tried rocks several years ago also, I was not home when they delivered, but it was not what I wanted. Shapes and sizes of all kinds. And it has been hard to pick manure off it. I’ve been picking up rock ever since. As for myself walking through the mud, I laid down boards to walk across from the gate to the shed. Doesn’t look the best but i’m ok with that.

  9. Sharon on March 29, 2019 at 10:15 am

    Had all the mud taken out, stones down with fabric on top, then stone dust on top. (None of that was cheap.)

  10. Brenda Gibbs on March 29, 2019 at 9:55 am

    How do you maintain the poop control? You can’t really go in with a tractor and scrape. Can you?

    • Stacy Westfall on March 29, 2019 at 10:43 am

      If you wanted to use a tractor you could. Just like scraping off the dirt you would try to back drag or hand pick. The gravel settles into the dirt as you can see in the video when I show the ‘experiment’ near the fence.
      Where I am is on the side of a slope and much of the manure washes down the hill. Plus my horses happened to pick a different spot in the pasture where they mostly go.

  11. Keith McClure on March 29, 2019 at 9:12 am

    Bought Stall Grid interlocking plastic panels. They are for stalls but wouldn’t want my horse sleeping on them. Tried several panels in a 12×12 area around water trough filling them with #8 gravel. It’s working great. Had some extra and put them at the barn door to the paddock. Want to get more. These work great for high traffic areas.

    • Stacy Westfall on March 29, 2019 at 10:47 am

      That sounds like a good plan! Do you remember how much the plastic panels were (roughly)?

      • Keith on April 2, 2019 at 10:32 am

        Can’t remember prices but United Fencing SE of Wooster had them. Will try to find the brochure.

        • Keith on April 2, 2019 at 10:36 am

          Stall Grid Ramm Fences has them, too

      • Keith on April 2, 2019 at 10:53 am

        Email me if you want to see them. Don’t live too far from you.

    • Nancy Gornichec on March 29, 2019 at 11:08 am

      Thanks for sharing this! Will definitely be looking into this.

  12. Travis Riley on March 29, 2019 at 9:12 am

    We used shredded asphalt in our paddock and it has worked amazing. Where we used to be ankle deep in mud after it rained we now have little puddles that drain away. It was only about 400 bucks for 16 tons. Now if I could just figure out how to keep my arena from becoming a lake.

    • Karen Bockus on March 29, 2019 at 10:23 am

      I have a pretty good problem solver for a wet arena providing you aren’t totally low, and flat. My husband and I put a 3 ft wide plastic non permeable material, tucked it under the tin, screwed it in, so that it takes the water away and directs it to the big O that’s around are arena. This is something We devised, and it works quite well. If I can figure out how to send pictures…or directed to how I will share.

      • Travis on March 29, 2019 at 10:39 am

        Please Do! unfortunately our arena isn’t covered. We are in Western Oklahoma and we don’t get a ton of rain except in the spring when i’m itching to ride. We’ve drug it so much it’s like a bowl and get’s about 3″ of water standing in it. we siphon it out in about a day but it’s still takes about 3 days to dry out enough to drag it. We put sand down last year and it helped some but i’m afraid it’ll take about 30 tons to cure it.

        • Tina on March 29, 2019 at 8:44 pm

          love the stone, i also keep my horses barefoot and this is great for their feet.

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