HORSE DAM­AGE TO FIELDS

Country Smallholding - - Ask the Experts -

Q

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.

A

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

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