HORSE DAMAGE TO FIELDS
My horses are kept out through the winter, but this means that our fields end up like a muddy, poached battleground! I’ve had problems with horses losing shoes and getting mud fever. What can I do to prevent the fields becoming trashed? Keeping the horses off the field in the winter is not an option as I believe horses should be kept out as much as possible.
Wendy Findlay says: Forward planning is key. Your preparations for the winter should begin during the summer when the fields are not saturated with water.
One way to tackle muddy areas around gateways, feeders and drinking troughs is to take away the top soil and replace it with a generous layer of stone to form a hardstanding area. This helps keep the mud at bay but will still need some attention during the winter. I find my horses like to stand on the hard stone surface near the feeder, which means I need to regularly lift droppings and spilled hay to prevent a mucky layer building up underfoot.
Other, more expensive, options you may consider include laying specialist grass matting or creating a concrete pad.
Like you, I believe horses should be outside every day whatever the weather, but I do ration access to the fields during the winter. Usually, I choose field or paddock that I will ‘sacrifice’ for winter turnout. It will have a hardstanding area, as described above, to allow the horses somewhere out of the mud, but I accept that the rest of the field will become very poached. Sometime during the spring/early summer I move the horses onto a new field and ‘repair’ the trashed field. Bringing a damaged field back to health involves harrowing, reseeding (if necessary), rolling and resting.
If sacrificing a whole field is not feasible, you could temporarily cordon off a smaller area using electric fencing. A layer of woodchips in a small turnout area can also help against the mud, although woodchips work best in a well- drained area and need to be kept topped up.
Horses will cause damage to the ground in winter