The weather patterns in this past year have brought us some intense rain fall. If you have low spots in your paddock, barnyard, or pasture, you know first hand all about deep mud. It doesn’t take long before the action of a horse’s feet makes wet ground into a six inch swamp. On a limited basis, mud can be a good thing for horse’s hooves, but when horses are standing in it for days, feet get punky and pasterns get irritated. When pasterns are exposed to moisture long enough, the annoying problem of “scratches” may result.
I have a client and long time friend who lives near by. She prefers to remain anonymous, so I will call her Kathy. She has a small barn that is located at the lower end of a very long slope of land. This means that water runoff is all towards the barn. The barn is a freestyle arrangement. Her three horses go in and out at will, through a wide, always open doorway. The animals like to hang out just outside the door, right where the run off from the paddock collects. For years, during snow melt, or after any soaking rain, her horses would end up fetlock deep in that muddy soup that lasted for days. This was thick, pull off your boots mud. Drains are an option in situations like this, but don’t always work exactly as we would hope. Kathy came up with a plan that cost no money and was just as effective.
She was removing an old, thick 10 by 10 rug that had been wall to wall carpeting in a small room in the house. In a moment of genius she decided to lay it over the paddock area in front of the barn door to see what might happen. Problem solved! The old carpet has been outside, right in front of that door for over six years now, and the muddy area no longer exists. Kathy reasons that water on dirt doesn’t make mud. It will either run off or just stay on top. But horses standing and milling around through that same area punch holes in the dirt, and mix the water with the dirt, making mud. The rug acts as a mat to prevent the water from mixing with the dirt.
Walking through Kathy’s paddock you would never know that you are walking on a carpet. Within 2 weeks the carpet got covered with dirt from the horse’s feet and disappeared from view.
When Kathy saw that the rug was working she put the word out and friends gave her some of their old rugs, so the total “carpeted area” is now about 20 by 20 square feet. The manure and debris is cleaned off the area with a fork, just like she would clean the paddock before the carpet was put down. I would have thought that only an outdoor carpet would be able to hold up this long, but the carpets were regular old, off the rack indoor carpeting. Three horses are standing and walking across that area every day, in sun, rain, snow, and ice. Kathy tells me that she uses the bucket on her tractor to lift and pull back the carpet about once a year so that she can level the ground underneath it. She has also carpeted a formerly muddy pathway to her riding arena and that has worked as well. In addition, Kathy is now using old rugs to hold back areas of erosion on the sloping sides of the arena. I anticipate that by this fall those carpeted slopes will be covered with grass.
If you have a similar situation in a paddock or an especially muddy pathway, this idea might be worth a try. Kathy has used different kinds of carpets for these projects and tells me that the thicker the weave, the better it works. Companies that install new carpets have to pay to leave them at the dump, and would probably welcome you taking some away.
–David A. Jefferson, DVM