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Providing winning solutions for horse management and the environment since 1997

Message from Alayne: Mud on My Mind!

Alayne Blickle

Those of you who follow me on Facebook saw that I posted my annual Winter Solstice test on chore efficiency in mid-December. I have an admission: this year I flunked my winter solstice test. My place was NOT chore efficient on Winter Solstice. My horse’s paddocks were a muddy, mucky mess. About that time they were alternating between being frozen hard and not draining (which mean urine and snow melt were pooling on top and freezing - yuck!) or partially thawed out and muddy, making it difficult to pick up manure.

While it was easy to feed, it was arduous to clean, and most of the paddocks were unpleasant for the horses. In fact, I even turned away potential horse motel clients; I was embarrassed to have them see my place right then, it wouldn't have been a healthy environment for their horses.

So what happened to my paddocks that they ended up this way? A few things.

First, I never loaded in additional footing which I usually do, and always advocate for others to do as well each fall. I was lulled into complacency by our long, warm fall and previous mild winter. Then November and December hit, with nearly a year’s worth of rain in six weeks, coupled with Arctic blasts of cold. Here in the sagebrush steppe, the clay soils combined with frozen ground made for a lot of mud. Topping that off, rutty frozen ground makes manure removal difficult. The more manure that was left behind, the more mud that was created. A vicious cycle.  

The solution? We’ve determined we need more sand as a footing to refresh and build up paddocks - reapplied in early fall so we’re ready for winter’s onslaught. And as next winter approaches, we will make sure to carefully pick up ALL manure on a regular basis (and I will do a better job of coaching my stall help to be meticulous!). In addition, adding more crushed rock as a base to areas that don’t drain will help.

I feel guilty even admitting this, but I hope it gives us all permission to be human and have issues - then to move forward with finding solutions. The true mistake would be to not work towards resolving the situation.

If you’ve had mud issues this season, here are some options to explore:

  • Sign up for HCW’s new online course: Horses and Land Management, which will cover mud and drainage, along with the basics of managing horse properties, on Wednesdays, March 2 to 23, 6-7 pm PST. Register at:
  • Attend a workshop: Thursday, February 25, 6:30 pm to 9 pm; Maple Valley, WA. Join HCW for: Mud Management: Record Rainfall / Record Mud. Register at:, (425) 282-1949 or email:
  • Attend a workshop and tour: Saturday, March 12, 9 am to noon. Join HCW for Dealing with Mud and Drainage for Horse and Livestock Owners. Register at:, (425) 282-1949 or email:
  • Attend a workshop: Sunday, March 13, 1 to 4 pm in Shelton, WA: Dealing with Mud, Drainage and Manure for Horse & Small Farm Owners. Register at: 427-9436 x117 or email:
  • Check out the article below on footing choices.
  • Take a look at our newly designed Horses for Clean Water website for even more ideas.

I’m excited to be able to offer resources for horse owners on our new website, which will continue to be updated regularly with fresh, new ideas, educational events, and photo galleries.

Happy New Year!