Managing mud in dry horse paddocks
Question: My dry lots get muddy in the spring as the snow melts. How can I prevent mud, and how can I manage it when it does happen?
Answer: Mud management and prevention is a year-round commitment and decisions made in the winter can have an impact on how much mud is present in the spring. Removing snow from dry lots and digging small channels to drain melted snow throughout the winter will reduce the amount of water present in the spring. When removing snow, store it in an area that will not drain back into the dry lots or through your manure pile. Frequent manure removal from dry lots is also important to reduce the retention of water at the surface and allow runoff or rainfall to soak into the soil.
During the summer months, grade or shape dry lots to help direct water away from feeding and watering areas, shelters, and gates. Raising these areas and incorporating well-draining surfaces or high-traffic pads will further reduce the amount of mud in these locations following snow melt or intense rainfall. High traffic pads are considered the “gold standard” when it comes to mud management and this video, available at https://bit.ly/307C4jB, outlines how to install one.
Feeding and space management are also important aspects to consider when managing mud. Similar to manure, make sure to remove any organic matter such as hay or grain waste that will retain water. Using hay nets and feeders can reduce feed waste in dry lots. Finally, consider the amount of space in your dry lot and the number of horses that you are keeping. Dry lots should allow at least 400 square feet per horse. If your dry lot cannot accommodate this, consider adding onto the dry lot, rotating horses through the dry lot, or feed horses in other areas (e.g. stalls).