Dealing with mud at the barn


Mud at the barn is a major pain in the rear….it’s slippery, can cause skin issues like scratches, it’s hard to remove from our horse’s coats and blankets, and can cause serious erosion to our land.


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Ideas for mud management


  • You have lots of options to help alleviate mud, some expensive, and some not so much.


  • One of the easiest and most cost-effective solutions is to use pea gravel in the areas that typically have dirt covering. Pathways and grass paddock corners and by the gates are common places.  BUT – if you have particularly sticky clay mud, this can all get churned up into a horrible goo. 


  • It would be best if you also put the gravel into any areas where water collects and mud is created. Water is evenly distributed as it flows, and the gravel works as a drain. You might put some gravel around the drain pipes and downspouts.


outdoor wash rack with gravel for drainage

This outdoor wash rack area is easily drained by gravel.



  • Pea gravel is great in courtyards, down paths, and in low areas of paddocks and turnouts that collect water and mud. It helps your parking areas stay mud-free also, your car’s floor mats will thank you. Pea gravel is fine for shod horses and most horses that are barefoot. You do need to be diligent about picking hooves.


dirty horse wearing a dirty fly sheet



Use grass as a mud preventative


  • Another great option for turnouts and paddocks is to use grass as a mud preventative.  


  • Some farms can’t maintain grass year-round in paddocks and turnouts, but as your rainy season starts, closing the paddocks for a few weeks to let some grass seed grow will please your ponies eventually and help alleviate the mud.


  • Check your local ag extension service for the best grasses in your area. You can also read this article on pasture management which also has some ideas for creating pastures.


mud in the corner of a paddock

While grass helps with drainage, mud can still happen with lots of rain and lots of hooves.


You can also go “high-tech” and install french drains.


  • These drains are buried in low-lying areas and have perforations so that water soaking in hits the tubing and is shuttled out of the area. This relies on gravity and is fairly labor-intensive to install.


  • You can also use buried PVC pipes connected to drain openings, which collect the surface water that flows to them and shuttles them away, also using gravity. Install drains outside of paddocks where no horse can step on them.



big mud puddle

If you do end up with muddy puddles, you can rope them off.


Use pump sumps


  • You can also create a low-lying “pond” in which rainwater drains, and pump out using a sump pump.


  • This requires you to have space outside of the reach of horses to collect the water. Then you need power to run the sump pump, and then you need a space to run the pumped water to. These systems are super if you have terrain that won’t allow for a gravity-fed system.


  • You can also create trenches for water to flow, I just advise that you run them under or outside of fences that contain horses. This allows you to have greater control over where the water goes. You can also use that earth you dug up to create a little wall to keep some water out.


tractor making a trench for water

This little tractor is digging some trenches and building some “walls” to keep heavy rains from flooding the stalls at these showgrounds.


Soak up excess water with outdoor bedding


  • For smaller areas, like the runs outside of barn stalls or pipe corrals, you can typically get great help in preventing mud by using various wood products to create “outdoor bedding”.


  • I particularly like any cedar that has been shredded. Wood pellets that expand when wet can also be great. For a 24 x 24 area, I have had great luck with using about 10 to 15 bags. You will have to play around with what works for you.


Use a grid system around gates, troughs, and other muddy areas


  • You can structurally reinforce the ground and prevent erosion using grids that blend into the dirt.  


  • Prep the area by leveling, adding stone dust or ground rock to drain.  Then lay in your grid, and backfill with stone dust, or whatever is available in your area. 



  • Make sure your grid can hold the weight of a horse!  You can find them at farm supply stores, or look for the style used in parking lots. 


  • Alternatively, you can use old carpet.  Many gate areas have been saved by allowing old carpets to become a bridge.  Eventually, horses will destroy it, but you could get years of use in the meantime.  And, it’s upcycling!



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