Do your horse pastures turn into muddy messes during the spring and winter? Drainage is a common issue with horse pastures, but there are a number of ways that you can improve your pasture drainage for a drier pasture.
Position Pastures Carefully
When you initially lay out your property, pay attention to where you're positioning the pastures. Placing pastures on the lower portion of a hill will mean that water drains down into them, making for damp earth and mud. Try to use areas of higher elevation for your pastures, and if possible, avoid hills at all. Hills which are frequently traveled can quickly become muddy.
Use a Sacrifice Area
Divide your pastures up so that you have at least one sacrifice area for every pasture. This sacrifice area is a separate pasture where you can turn horses out in order to give your main pasture time to recover. If the horses are grazing down the grass in your main pasture, putting them in your sacrifice area gives the grass time to grow back so that the ground doesn't turn to dirt and mud.
Limit the Number of Horses
Putting too many horses out on a single pasture will degrade the quality of the land, even if you rotate them into a sacrifice area. As a rule of thumb, try to have at least one acre of pasture available per horse. By limiting the number of horses that you put out on your pastures, you can help to keep the ground in better shape and can limit the amount of mud present.
Clean Up Manure
It's so important to clean up horse manure on a regular basis, especially if your pastures are small. Leaving manure to stand in smaller pastures not only creates an unhealthy situation for your horse, but it can also contribute to your mud problem. Remove manure from pastures on a regular basis.
Bring in Pea Gravel
Sometimes no matter what you do, certain areas of your pasture will get muddy. These are generally the heaviest traveled areas, such as areas by gates or where horses are fed. You may want to bring in pea gravel to help manage the mud. There are additional grid systems which you can install under the earth to help manage mud, too.
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With good pasture management practices, you can minimize the amount of mud that you and your horses have to deal with.