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In the soggy months between winter and summer, your horse pastures can quickly turn into a muddy mess. Short of moving to the desert, you're not likely to escape mud entirely, but you can take some practical pasture-management steps to minimize the worst of it:
• Pick up manure regularly. A single horse can produce up to 50 pounds of manure per day. Add ample spring rains, and it's easy to see how turnout areas can quickly become a muddy mess. Remove manure from pastures and paddocks at least every two to three days.
• Avoid overcrowding. When too many horses are placed in a small area, their hooves churn up the ground, killing the grass and turning the area into mud. One option is to bring all your horses into a designated "sacrifice area" to protect the grass in your larger turnout during the wet season. But if you have the space, limiting the number of horses per paddock to one or two will help keep the grass intact and reduce mud.
[For your bookshelf: Horsekeeping on a Small Acreage: Designing and Managing Your Equine Facilities]
• Install dry footing. High-traffic areas at the gate or feeders are likely to become wet and slippery. Try laying down gravel, wood chips, hog fuel, sand or some other material that will provide safe footing while allowing water to drain through.
• Inspect your runoff system. Make sure the gutters on your barn and sheds are clear of debris and redirecting rainwater well away from the foundations. Ideally, they'd send runoff into low-traffic areas with enough vegetation to capture and absorb the water.
• Plant "rain gardens." A buffer zone of plants around pastures as well as driveways and other hard surfaces will help capture rainwater and reduce runoff problems, including mud. The best plants for rain gardens are deep-rooted wildflowers, small trees or shrubs local to your area; check with your county extension agent or a nearby garden center for suggestions.