Once the wet season has begun, the question of what can be done to keep the paddock floor mud-free arises for many stable and horse owners. Mud and slush in horse runs is the result of compacted soil caused by the heavy body weight of horses in areas that are heavily used by horses. These include running paths or the areas around feeding areas. If the ground is compacted, rainwater can no longer run off – the result is a muddy surface.
Why is it important to dry out a paddock?
Mud is not only unsightly, it can also become a hazard for horses. In damp and wet weather, the risk of horses slipping on the wet surface is increased. Tendon strains or even tears can be a possible result. Another problem with a muddy paddock arises during permafrost. The uneven muddy ground freezes and can become a dangerous tripping hazard. This also increases the risk of horses injuring themselves.
In addition, horses should be provided with dry surfaces to lie down on. It should also be mentioned that the skin protection barrier of the horses is strained and damaged by wetness and mud. Mildew and thrush can be unpleasant consequences.
As a horse owner, you also benefit from draining the paddock. The paddock can also become a dangerous mud slide for you. A mud-free surface also makes stable work easier, as it is easier to collect and can be driven over more easily.
Which subsoil is sensible and cost-effective for my paddock?
The question of the right substructure for a paddock depends on several factors. A crucial role is played by:
- Size of the area to be drained
Regardless of which substructure is chosen, it should always be ensured that water can drain away. This can be done vertically by a special substructure with several layers or horizontally by a slope. In any case, sand or wood chips should be avoided on the muddy ground. After a short time, sand or wood chips mix with the soil and the problem usually worsens, because sand in combination with mud aggravates the compaction of the soil. In any case, it is advisable to lay a separation layer, for example with paddock mats or fleece.
Paddock mats can be laid either directly on the natural ground or with a sub-base. Depending on the size of the area, laying paddock mats can be a bit more costly. Laying on the natural ground is not always promising if the ground is not worked beforehand and the paddock mats are simply laid on mud. If the paddock mats are laid elaborately with substructure, the ground is straightened beforehand and then backfilled with a gravel footing layer. Only then come the paddock mats. Sand or wood chips can then be added.
For layer systems, a three-layer system has proven successful. This consists of:
Base layer (pebbles, rubble, gravel are ideal)
Separating layer (fleece, paddock mats, grass pavers)
tread layer (sand, wood chips, artificial turf)
A layered system is complex and cost-intensive to construct, but is convincing in the long term.
Many stables now have artificial turf laid. This has the advantage that, in contrast to paddock mats, it is much gentler on the joints and is popular with horses for lying on. Another positive aspect is the ease of installation and the low financial outlay, as artificial turf can be purchased inexpensively in larger quantities. However, artificial turf should not be laid directly on the mud, but on a separating layer of crushed stone. Otherwise, in wet places, there is a quick risk that the artificial turf will sink into the mud.
Advantages, disadvantages and cost-benefit analysis
Laying paddock mats often sounds quite appealing. Some manufacturers advertise that the paddock mats can be laid on the natural ground and the mud problem is solved in no time. However, depending on individual ground conditions, this design may not achieve the desired effect. If the ground is not drawn level before laying, the paddock mats will have no grip and will push away upwards. Also, freedom from mud is not guaranteed if it cannot be ensured that water can drain under the paddock mats.
High-quality, water-permeable paddock grids from Equiground or stabilization grids from LA BUVETTE prevent the mixing and compaction of footing and sub-base and serve to stabilize and reinforce the natural quality of the soil.
If you want to work as economically as possible when draining a paddock, you should work expediently. Often it is sufficient to dry out walking paths, feeding areas, entrance areas and preferred resting places. Horses prefer dry surfaces and avoid muddy surfaces. As a result, reduced foot traffic will reduce soil compaction and the soil will also be able to dry better in the non-dried areas.
In order to enjoy your paddock for as long as possible, it should be cleaned and maintained regularly, regardless of the surface.
Holes and broken paddock mats
The chosen substructure should be regularly checked for its condition. Broken paddock mats must be replaced and holes in the footing repaired.
Regular mucking out
One of the essentials of proper paddock care is the regular collection of horse droppings. In this way, the subsoil does not mix with the horse droppings, which prevents the risk of recompaction. But not only the droppings of horses, but also leaves should be collected in the fall. This can likewise mix with sand or wood chips and create compaction of the soil.
Pulling off the paddock
Optimally, the paddock should be stripped at regular intervals. This type of maintenance prevents holes from forming where water accumulates and ensures rainwater drainage in the long term.
Caution with digging and scratching horses
Paddock mats can be problematic for horses that tend to dig. The same applies to artificial turf and paddock surfaces that are laid according to the layer system. If horses dig and scratch out of boredom, they can significantly shorten the life of the paddock mats and cause them to come loose. In paddocks with a layer system, however, scratching is far more fatal: if the horses tear up the footing layer, the different layers mix with each other and it is no longer guaranteed that wetness can continue to drain away reliably. In addition to preventing boredom through a stimulating paddock design (for example, through play balls, hay nets, wide running paths and a sensible group composition), the paddock should be regularly scoured for holes.
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