It's the bane of horse owners every where. It never gets better, it only gets worse and it's a constant battle to keep it under control.
Mud. I hate it. My horses hate it. We have an unending supply of the sticky, nasty, slick and slimy stuff. In most areas it's only a couple inches deep (not over the top of the hooves) in other places its pastern-sucking deep. I worry about their hooves being wet all the time, but so far, we've had no problems *cross fingers!* and their hooves are quite healthy. They all have a very slight case of thrush, but nothing to get excited about. I've seen stalled horses with far worse cases of thrush than I've ever seen in any of mine. They are just standing in mud, not pee and poo. I treat the thrush a few times a week to keep it from getting worse, but that's about all I can do at this point. Grooming is an adventure, of course, and sometimes Gabe is more bay than gray! There are times you can't tell Chief is an Appy because all his spots are covered in mud. Last night Calypso had a dried patina of mud encrusting her entire body...she kind of looked like she'd been dipped in a milk chocolate coating! Their tails are so long the ends get little balls of mud stuck tight to them. That is SO much fun to groom, I tell you what. Mix in a bunch of shedding beasts and its a party! Their tails are so long the ends get little balls of mud stuck tight to them. I'm going to have a beauty spa day this weekend and wash those tails so I can detangle, de-mudify and whack about three or four inches off the bottom of each. Not Gabe's, of course. His is barely past his hocks at this point, but Chief and Calypso both have about 2 inches dragging the ground.
We have launched a battle against the worst of the worst with tons of gravel and geotextile cloth. But it's an expensive venture. If I could afford to we'd strip and cover both dry (mud!) lots with "cow carpet" and overlay that with stone dust. But it's a tad cost prohibitive at more than $5,000 per paddock (on the cheap side.) Yikes! Right now we are just putting down rock where the horses tend to stand...at the gates, in front of and in run-in sheds and around the water tanks. But the rest of the paddocks remain a muddy mess.
A barn is in our future and I'm still teetering on whether or not I'd actually leave the horses in stalls when the paddocks are muddy. It's kind of a two-edged sword. If you leave them in you can hypothetically prevent deeper mud by keeping damaging hooves out of it. However, leaving them in during the muddy season also seriously increases their energy level so when you DO turn them out, they'll most likely run around bucking and farting like fiends and 1. Rip up the paddock any way and 2. Injure their crazy selves. And I'd double my cost of horse keeping with the cost of shavings for each stall. I'm still leaning towards putting them in stalls during the worst of the weather (super cold winter days, icy paddocks. cold, pouring rain/sleet and just really, really nasty days.) instead of making it a regular thing. Cleaning three stalls every day would take that much more time away from riding and enjoying my horses! Keeping the farm in shape and gardening takes enough of that precious time already without adding more chores to the list.
I love having my horses at home. I love that I can sit on my deck with a drink in hand and just watch them be horses. I love that I can wake up in the morning and glance out the dining room window to do a quick welfare check to make sure everyone is still standing. I love hearing them nicker for their meals when they see me heading out with the feed buckets and hay. I love having my eyes on them every day and not having to trust someone else to notice if something is off or not quite right. I can wander out at any time and just visit with them if I want to. I know exactly what they are eating and when and can adjust feed on the fly if necessary. Extra hard day of riding? You get an extra pound of oats or another flake of hay. Looking a tad on the pudgy side? I can cut feed immediately instead of relying on someone else to do it. I don't ever have to wonder if they got their supplements or medication because I'M the one doing it. I will never, ever go back to a boarding situation again. Sure, I miss the indoor arena and the all-weather arena. Sometimes I even miss the silly barn drama and I definitely miss my riding buddiees. But I don't miss it enough to ever go back. EVER.
I just hate the mud!