While many Georgians are praying for rain, all equestrians know the troubles that come with that double-edged sword, the mud. It never seems to matter how much or when, the mud always makes an appearance. More than simply a nuisance, muddy conditions can be unsafe for horse and rider causing slips and falls, create health conditions such as thrush and pastern dermatitis, and decrease feed efficiency of ground feeders and hay. What is a horse owner to do?
Try to mitigate the problem before it starts with facility layout and management. If possible, put feeding areas, barns or shelters, and high traffic areas on higher ground to decrease water accumulation and muddy conditions.
Embrace that high-traffic areas will likely always be high-traffic areas. When these areas experience repeated use, especially in wet conditions, the likelihood of vegetation holding in place is low. These areas are now susceptible to mud unless treated and managed. Try designating an area as a sacrifice paddock to decrease the number of high-traffic areas you are managing. Think about a high-traffic pad or alternate footing to help improve drainage.
If timing is not on your side or permanent mud fixes are not in place, you may need to turn to temporary solutions to aid in mud alleviation. If you need to bring in amendments to combat the water and mud, be sure to only use materials such as gravel, dirt, or sand that will not break down quickly. Adding shavings to these areas can results in a soupy mess that doubles as a bacteria farm. Keep in mind that materials can still create runoff in heavy rains, so this technique should be used with caution.
Think outside of the box. Mud is a formidable foe, so you might have to get creative to find the strategy that works for your barn. That might mean investing in gutters to divert rain away from structures. You may have to designate different feeding routines in the heavy rain months to rest paddocks or use higher ground. If mud still sticks around, just remember to stay safe! Slow horses down to reduce fall risks and check them regularly for signs of wet-weather health conditions.
Brooklyne Wassel, Pike County Extension Coordinator & Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent