If you own horses, then mud is inevitable in the winter time. But how much mud is ok? Is mud going to harm our horses?
I personally keep all manner of breeds of horses and not one of them ever gets mud fever or any leg/foot problem, no laminitis, no navicular…why? The answer, isn’t just the particular paddock they are in or the particular mud they are exposed to. My herd have moved into 5 different environments over the last 4 years and they have never suffered once from mud fever, even though they are exposed to a fair amount of mud in the winter.
Have I got special horses…or special mud? Nope. So why are my horses not suffering from problems when exposed to mud?
Well, there are various reasons, not just one.
I don’t wash their legs…ever. I let any mud dry and then it can be brushed off if needed, but never ever do I wash their legs…for anything. Their legs and feet get wet from the mud or the water around their trough, but I don’t soak them or hose them at all.
I feed them 24/7 365 mixed meadow hay, no rye, no single species hay. They have this hay in two big bale feeders AND dotted around their paddock in big sturdy buckets. This means they can eat together or they can eat apart, there are enough ‘stations’ for them to eat totally alone if they choose to, or they can be more communal, the choice is theirs.
They aren’t rugged, they have their own natural rug, they have shelter if they need it, but rarely use it in the winter, preferring to use it in the summer to escape the flies. If I had a sick or very old ailing horse, I would rug if I needed to, but all my horses are fit and healthy, the young and the old.
They are barefoot, have fantastic circulation, functioning healthy frogs & are never footsore.
I never stable them, I am lucky to have my own land, but if I had to keep them in a stable for some of the day or night in the winter, I would still do all of the above if I could.
They have a magnesium based salt lick, with trace minerals – no molasses – which is available 24/7 365.
And that is it! No problems. Barely ever see a vet, unless there is an unforeseen trauma. In fact the last time I saw a vet for my horses was 16 months ago when he came to sign the papers to say they were all fit to travel abroad.
I don’t want my horses to stand around in mud all day…but that’s the thing…my horses rarely ever ‘stand around’ unless they are having a snooze….they are on the move all the time. I always have areas that they can get out of the mud but do they always choose to go to these areas…no.
Mud doesn’t kill or harm horses, but what you put in their diet can. If you are desperate to keep your horse off the mud and by doing so you expose your horse to more and more overgrazed grass, then you are trading their health for a perceived kindness to take them out of mud.
I’m not advocating mud up to their hocks, of course not, but I’m trying to get across that mud isn’t the enemy…but grass can be, so be careful.
Mud in the winter with horses is just a fact of life for so many. If you can provide areas that are mud free then all the better. If you are at livery and your horse has to go inside for some of the day, then try and keep the hay going 24/7 if you can, and be careful what hay you feed.
I used to be a paranoid horse owner who freaked at the sight of my horses in mud…now I can relax, because not one of my horses ever suffers.
Just follow the simple steps above as closely as you can, and your horse should be fine…but if you have mud, don’t freak out about it and don’t let others make you feel bad.
After all, mud can actually be very beneficial!
Enjoy the weekend barefooters ?
Lindsay, Editor BHM