Wednesday, March 20, 2013

When a drylot becomes a mud lot

I've been thinking a lot, and none too optimistically, about mud lately. I'm consoled somewhat by The Contrary Farmer's take on the topic today. At least I'm not alone. His solution is to keep livestock small and well-distributed over the land. Small farms, small beasts.

You'd think I'd be well-prepared to handle the problem then. Small ponies, small goats. Four pound chickens for crying out loud -- they hardly generate any mud at all. But there's a catch-22 with equines. Since I have more ponies than horses at the home barn, I can't use grass to hold the dirt. I can't rotate from one grass pasture to another. I can't simply let the horses out to pasture, no matter how small they are. To prevent laminitis and founder, I need a drylot. But, the problem with bare ground is that quite often you end up with something that is anything but dry.

Last year as a rookie pony keeper, I simply let the ponies chew down the winter grass in their large pen and did nothing else. No grass, no risk. Win win right? Well, I had never had to personally manage mud before. At first, when soft spots developed, I just ignored them. Then, if they got too deep or too wide, I put some straw over them. You can see where this is going right? It worked well enough during the summer, when the weather was hot, and because of the drought, oh-so-dry. The straw sopped up the moisture and then dried out. But as the weather cooled into the fall, it stopped drying out.

The line between gravel pad and mud is clear.
By Thanksgiving, the new barn was completed, including a 12-foot perimeter of gravel pad around the whole thing, to prevent mud pits at the stall doors. I moved the ponies into their new space and took down their old pen and was thankful to 'fix' the original mud problem by simply abandoning it.  I, naively, thought I had handled it. Well, spring rolls around and guess what? The ground just past the gravel pad, 12 feet and 1 inch from the new barn, is a mudpit and even the ground where the old pen was is still mushy. I'm not sure it ever even completely froze like the rest of the place, with its deep mixture of straw and mud.

What to do?

I can't just replant with grass, because of the laminitis risk.

I hate to fill an entire yard with gravel or sand, but it looks like I'll have to or l'll have an entire herd of ponies knee-deep in mud.

Does anyone have any suggestions? What's the best and most economical material to use? I fear whatever the solution is, it's going to cost about the price of a used truck. Poo.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry, no suggestions here. I'm just glad our mud dries pretty quickly here in the high desert. It can get pretty nasty sometimes and it sticks to your boots until you're at least 3 inches taller!