Sick of trudging through mud and slush while working with your horses? There are a few things you can do to manage and minimise the grief during wet spells of weather.
A panel of experts gathered by the Kentucky Equine Networking Association via the Kentucky Horse Council have some words of wisdom to help horse owners better care for their farms and their animals during wet weather.
At most farms, the heavily trafficked areas are the most prone to mud buildup, including around gates, shelters, waterers and feeders. Dr Bob Coleman, PhD, PAS, Extension Horse Specialist at the University of Kentucky suggested constructing pads in as many of these areas as possible; pad construction entails the removal of soil and the placement of fabric and rock to encourage water to drain down and away from where horses congregate.
He noted that water runoff comes from the roofs of buildings, roads and the way the land naturally drains. The installation of gutters to divert the water away from buildings, as well as the use of swales and culverts, can help eliminate standing water.
Resting fields is the key
“When it comes to managing mud on horse farms, there is no silver bullet, no product or practice that solely eliminates mud, but careful management can minimize the size and severity of the issue,” said Krista Lea, research analyst with the Forage Extension Program at the University of Kentucky regarding the impact mud has on pastures and fields.
“Whether managing grazing or loafing areas, maintaining grasses in a pasture requires occasional rest, good soil fertility and, when needed, the addition of desirable grasses through proper seeding.”
Lea went on to detail that field rest periods should be a minimum of one week, but that resting for two to three weeks is ideal. Field soil samples should be taken every 2 to 3 years and only the needed amendments applied, she said. However, nitrogen can be applied twice every autumn without a soil test, at 60 to 80 pounds of urea per acre, she explained, but cautioned that no amount of fertilizer can make up for poor management.
At the hoof of the issue
Dr Craig Lesser, DVM, CF at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, spoke about hoof conditions that might arise with an abundance of mud. These issues included thrush and abscesses, and a complication that may arise from chronic abscesses: Septic Pedal Osteitis. An infection of the coffin bone, the treatment for this condition is much more intense than with a traditional abscess; treatment may include antibiotics (either systemic or used in regional perfusion), specific shoeing or even surgery.
A more-unusual condition that may occur in muddy conditions is quittor. An infection in and around the collateral cartilage, this painful condition may require antibiotic treatment, as well as possibly surgical debridement and drain placement.
White line disease can cause lameness, abscesses, rotation of the coffin bone or the sloughing of the hoof capsule — none of which should be taken lightly. Treatment may include supportive shoeing, but more intense cases may require debridement.
Lesser also discussed pastern dermatitis and thrush. Though each condition he discussed could be helped by the ability to keep the horse’s legs and feet clean and dry, Lesser noted that this is not always possible, especially for equines who live outside. He noted that diligent, daily care will allow horse owners and caretakers to address a hoof issue when it first appears, hopefully allowing for a less-invasive treatment to solve the problem.