Mud is an unavoidable part of horsekeeping in most parts of the country. As difficult and messy as it can make daily barn chores, it isn’t always a bad thing for your horse.
Encountering a bit of mud can be good for your horse’s hooves, keeping them from becoming dry and contracted. The same goes for his skin---an occasional roll in the mud helps protect him from insects and encourages production of natural oils that, ultimately, will lead to a shinier coat after a good grooming.
As a general rule, “too much” mud is so deep that it extends up to your horse’s coronary band, covering his hooves, and persists at that level for more than three days. Mud at this depth can cause all sorts of trouble, from lost shoes to pulled tendons to scratches and other skin infections. The longer your horse stays in mud of this magnitude, the more likely these are to happen.
If your farm has more than a “healthy” amount of mud, get your horse onto drier ground. This may mean temporarily moving him to another pasture until the wet spell passes. If your fields are persistently muddy, however, it’s important to address your drainage issues: Reinforce high-traffic areas, such as around gates and troughs with crusher-run gravel or special textiles that facilitate soil drainage.
This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #445, October 2014.