At long last, the snow is melting, the sun’s coming out, and it’s time to get back in the saddle! While horseback riders rejoice when spring finally arrives, the melting snow and April showers bring something that we also dread – mud. And lots of it. Mud can make doing even the most basic chores a challenge. If springtime mud is overwhelming your farm, these 5 tips can help.
Use Sacrifice Paddocks
If you’re not already using sacrifice paddocks, now is the time to start. Sacrifice paddocks give you a place to turn out your horses so that your main paddocks get a chance to rest and the grass can grow and recover. This is particularly important when dealing with muddy paddocks – if a grass paddock gets too soft, your horses will churn the area into mud. Not only will you lose the grass that would have grown there, but you’ll also now be dealing with a mud problem.
Your sacrifice paddock allows you to get the horses out of their main space. Keep your horses in the sacrifice area until the main paddock or field has dried out enough to be able to support them without turning to mud. If you don’t have a sacrifice area available, then you might consider fencing off the muddier or softer areas of your main field with a temporary electric fence until they can dry.
Promptly Pick Up Manure From Runs
If left in a run or paddock, manure will only contribute to your mud problem. Make a point of removing manure from runs on a daily basis to help keep the mud at a minimum.
Install a Grid System
Looking for a solution for the future? There are many in-ground grid systems that help to stabilize the ground while promoting drainage. These systems can help to prevent mud from forming, so high-traffic areas, like gates into pastures or small runs coming off of stalls, stay mud-free.
These systems aren’t cheap, but the installation method is fairly simple and they’re well worth the cost when you consider the advantage of a mud-free farm in future years. I typically recommend VersiGrid (previously known as HoofGrid)
Clipping your horse’s lower legs – particularly trimming the long hair from behind the fetlocks – can help to minimize the chances of mud causing a case of scratches. You can also hose off your horse’s legs after he comes inside for the night. Keep a close eye on your horse’s legs so that you can quickly start treatment if he does develop scratches.
Bring in Gravel
If you have dirt or gravel roads on your property, keep a close eye on them during the wetter spring months. These types of roads can become soft and, if mud develops, they may even be impassable. You may need to bring in gravel to reinforce the roads, or to add traction to softer areas so that vehicles can still pass.
If mud is a significant issue on your farm, then you may want to look into drainage options for the future. Directing water away from troublesome areas can help to keep mud from becoming an issue. Landscaping, in-ground drains, and even grading areas of your property can make a difference in the amount of mud that you experience in the future.