Mud, mud go away- leave me and my horses alone: Part 2
Tired of dealing with mud issues? Here are some potential solutions to minimize the occurrence of mud on your farm.
In the first part of this Michigan State University Extension article, we discussed identifying the factors that are contributing to the creation and occurrence of mud on your horse farm. If you have identified the contributing factors, let’s move on to discussing possible solutions.
Potential solutions to minimize or eliminate mud issues on your farm:
- Over-seeding in high traffic areas.
- Short term: Annual ryegrass (cool season grass) establishes quickly and is relatively inexpensive. Can be broadcast on top of the ground and still germinate. Best to keep horses off seeding for as long as possible.
- Long term: Seed Kentucky bluegrass into a prepared seedbed. This grass is suited for high traffic areas. However, it may take up to several months for seedlings to fully establish which means keeping horses off of the seeding.
- Utilize a sacrifice area or exercise lot.
- Confine horses to a designated area that is higher and dryer with improved footing. Utilizing a sacrifice area will also help with pasture management by keeping horses off of pastures during inclement weather, avoiding hoof-tread damage to pasture plants and providing pasture resting periods for forage regrowth.
- Improved footing by selecting “hoof friendly” materials.
- Short or intermediate term: Scrape off accumulated mud, manure and other organic matter. Options may include sand (two to four inches deep), rock (six to eight inches deep for it to last as it will migrate into the soil). The size of rock used needs to be small enough for horses to comfortably stand on and safely walk across; wood chips may work in some cases (six inches minimum, 12 inches for longer longevity). However, it is recommended to avoid wood chips that contain walnut.
- Long term: Layering footing material (rock, sand, etc.) along with a geotextile fabric (synthetic filter fabric with small holes that water can pass through but not soil particles) which will likely require some degree of excavation. A resource from the University of Vermont provides an illustrated step by step guide that includes using pea stone as the top layer. Excavating contractors will be able to help you identify what sources of layering material may work best and are locally available in your area.
- Establish and utilize vegetative filter strips as mud managers.
- Short term: If you have identified how water is flowing or accumulating, fence off a particular area to allow the vegetation to remain (not grazed or overgrazed). This may assist with capturing some of the water or possibly divert it to a more desirable location.
- Long term: Establishing permanent vegetative filter strips (up slope and down slope from high use areas) which may require the reorganization of current farm layout (fencing, shelter location, access to drinking water, etc.)
Mud management may require evaluating your respective situation from a different perspective contrary to what management practices you may have implemented or have just dealt with in the past.