Spring is here! April showers bring....Muddy horses, lost shoes, ruined blankets, thrush, you name it! As much as we love the warmer weather, the sloppy mud it brings can really put a damper on your horse's health and your happiness. Everyone's turn out situation is different, but we have some tips to help you on your way to healthier pastures.
Pasture rotation is a great way to keep your pastures healthier and mud free. If you have one large pasture, consider economical electric tape fencing to break it into smaller pastures that you can rotate horse's through, or to save one section for drier times so you do not kill all of your grass before it has a chance to grow. Tape fencing is very easy to quickly put up, take down and move. If you are able to turn out in one section when its wet, and save another for when it is dry, you will still have some good pasture left for your horses.
If your horses are partially stalled and partially turned out, it is in you and your horse's best interest to consider not turning out on very wet, sloppy days. Hooves can tear up a lush but wet pasture very easily, churning it to mud in no time. Proper drainage is key to a pasture that dries in good/normal time after rain. Try to avoid placing pasture in low areas or area with no drainage. If moving pasture to higher ground is not an option, consider having a drainage system put in, or digging some irrigation/drainage ditches of your own.
Consider putting down alternative footing in high traffic areas- materials such as large grain sand and pea gravel will allow water to drain away faster. Areas such as around round bale feeders, gates and water troughs are high traffic and can get very muddy very quickly if there is not better footing or good drainage in place.
Having a dry place for the horses to get out of the mud is very important. Their frogs can become very soft and infections such as thrush thrive in wet muddy ground. Conditions such as “scratches” and other bacterial infections can affect their legs if they are not able to properly dry out.
If your pasture is filled with pocked hoof-marks that are holding water and just not drying out, you can try dragging it with a cheap field drag (not your arena drag!) to even things out so that it can dry faster. Don't get your tractor stuck!
Overall good property management and prevention are the best ways to combat the yearly spring mud, but it is worth the additional effort to have happy boarders/riders and healthy horses.