Mud management

Mud management in short

Mud on your track is caused by an imbalance between the carrying capacity and the load during a wet period. By bearing capacity we mean the ability of the soil to bear weight. By load capacity we mean the weight that is placed on the ground. But you can imagine that a dry soil can support more weight before collapsing or deforming than a wet soil. Now you cannot prevent it from raining, but you can to a certain extent prevent the soil from becoming saturated and remaining wet. Because a wet soil has a lower load-bearing capacity and therefore turns into mud more quickly!

Prevention is better than cure

Preventing mud formation on your track and in your meadow prevents a lot of hassle and costs. For example, you will have to provide your horses with extra care to keep hooves and legs dry and healthy. The track needs extra attention to keep it safe for you and your horses. For example, the meadow must be overseeded to prevent the development of unwanted crops on the bare spots, otherwise you will be stuck with unwanted herbs all summer long.

Once mud has formed, this process cannot be reversed, except by giving the soil a lot of rest. It is therefore important to prevent mud formation. But how do you easily prevent mud? The answer is simpler than the implementation, keep carrying capacity and load in balance and prevent compaction!

Good drainage

First of all, the (rain)water must have somewhere to go. It is important that, for example, the track and paddock are always higher than the surrounding meadow. This way your meadow can serve as a buffer for the water. The consequence is that you do not use the pasture for your horses during wet periods, because the carrying capacity of the pasture is considerably worse when it is wet.

However, in a non-compacted meadow the water is quickly absorbed by the soil and the plants, so that it may be usable soon after rain. You can read how to prevent and remedy compaction in the blog about compaction. You can also work with height differences in your meadow, such as creating a pool or wadi in lower parts. This way, water flows where you don't want it (on your track) to the lower parts. In this way you can maintain sufficient carrying capacity in parts of your meadow for grazing, even in wetter periods.

At Equihabitat Hulder 10, both existing and constructed height differences have been used to promote drainage. In the Design and Enrichment Elements Workshop we give you a lot of knowledge and our experience about the possibilities to promote drainage.

Control load

Good management can also prevent mud. Mud can be prevented by adjusting the frequency of entry, the weight of the entry and the method of entry, mechanically or by animals, to the carrying capacity at a certain time.

Use your lawn tires on the compact tractor instead of tires with large sidewalls (large profile). Do you have some Shetlanders or a large herd of large horses? Do the animals walk on the meadow 24/7 or do you use the paddock and tracks? All this determines how quickly your soil becomes compacted and will form mud, especially in wet periods. Controlling carrying capacity and load prevents mud on your plot.

Not an easy job!


You can of course also opt for a more permanent solution to prevent or remedy mud. Think of:

  • Sandy soil : A sandy soil is usually preferred for paddocks and pasture, because it is well-drained and the horses can also lie, roll and run here. By adding sand, the track and paddock are automatically higher than the surrounding terrain. Sand paths have the additional advantage that they prevent wear and tear on the hooves, and sand paths also provide good cushioning to the horses' musculoskeletal system.
  • Paving : Paving is especially recommended at points where the horses often congregate, walk and stand, such as around feeding areas, the shelter and an important passage or paths that you also use with the wheelbarrow. Paving is a durable solution and easy to clean, and it also contributes to natural wear and tear of the hooves. Although the latter is also an important reason not to harden everything.
  • Lava stone : Lava stone is a natural hardening with a very good draining effect. Lava stone is also very good for the hooves. The small parts of lava rock that are taken away during mucking out and later returned to your own pasture through fertilization are also a good mineral-rich soil improver. Lavastane looks very natural and is therefore nice to apply. Lava rock is a good option for continuous walkways that are heavily used and can quickly become muddy.
  • Paddock grids : During the wet periods there is a huge demand for paddock grids. The paddock grids provide good pressure distribution, which gives the ground a much higher load-bearing capacity, even in wet conditions, which prevents mud. Paddock grids are not cheap and installing them requires the same preparation as paving for a good result.
  • Wood chips : Although wood chips are usually not recommended, we do have wood chips on part of the track at Equihabitat Hulder 10. This is because of the natural appearance and the fact that it can simply be placed in the compost heap when removing manure.
  • Rubble : Rubble is often seen as the ideal surfacing, but the use of rubble also has disadvantages. Debris comes from all kinds of demolition projects and can contain contamination. A reliable supplier for "clean" rubble is therefore important for a good result. We do not recommend rubble as a surface for the paddock, but it can be used very well on parts of the track.
  • Sheep's wool : The use of sheep's wool to prevent mud has come from England, among other places. Sheep wool is applied under the top layer of the track or paddock as a pressure distributor. It prevents contact compaction, the drainage capacity of the soil is maintained or even improved and this prevents mud.

For all surfaces except sand and sheep's wool, the hooves wear out faster than sand paths and grazing. It is important to take this into account in the design to prevent excessive wear.

For more information you can download the Knowledge Document - Mud Management.

Do you have questions about preventing mud in your horses' housing? Then request an on-site consultation or follow the Mud Management Workshop in which we share the possibilities, construction and management with you in detail.


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