Barn Entry Mud Abatement – Part 1

It’s time to deal with the clay and mud mess we have in front of our barn. We’ve written about this mud before, back in October as we were preparing for the winter mud. Over the past year we’ve tried a few things and are finally starting to see some results. The best thing would probably be paving the area we have trouble with, but we just don’t have the $2,000 or so in our budget. In looking for inexpensive solutions, here’s what we’ve tried so far:

1. Sand amendment.

Our “soil” is mostly clay here and when it gets wet, it’s a goopy mess. Because clay doesn’t drain well, the goopy mess sticks around for several days after a rain. In fact, some pockets of water are around for weeks after a rain. We’ve accidentally stepped in these pockets and had old smelly water spray all over. Ick. So it seems to us that the key to improving this situation is to amend the soil so that it drains better. We’re not going to stop the mud when it rains but we want it to dry up as quickly as possible.

Since this is an experiment, we’ve selected a section of our barn entrance and every couple of weeks or so we poured and spread a 50 pound bag of play sand, purchased inexpensively at our local hardware store. Each 50 pound bag cost around $5. And even though fifty pounds sounds like a lot, each bag only covered an area about 3 foot square. Over the last 6 months, we’ve added about 200 pounds of sand to a six foot square area. Now obviously for a large area, the best way to bring in sand would be by truck and not by bag. But this was an experiment.

2. Organic material amendment (mostly hay).

Adjacent to the 6 foot square area we used for the sand amendment experiment, we selected a larger 10 foot square area for our organic material experiment. Sometimes our horses don’t eat all their hay and when it’s left on the ground we don’t like to use it for feed anymore. Cost is zero. So we scoop it over the gate and gradually the horses walk on it so the hay gets mixed in with the clay. And sometimes we throw some grass clippings on top, too. In nature, all this organic stuff breaks down slowly and it seems logical that eventually this material will improve the soil composition.
Six Month Results – what’s working?

It’s been about six months since we started this little mud abatement experiment and we have some interesting results to share. Surprisingly, the sand has worked very well. Take a look at the before and after pictures:

Barn Entrance Before Barn Entrance After

To the left is before and on the right is after. The “after” picture was taken a few days after rain. The “before” picture is obviously a muddy mess. Six months later, the area closer to the bottom of the “after” picture isn’t as muddy and is much smoother than the area towards the top of the picture. Below is a picture from the side:

Barn Entrance Side view

Organic material amendment is represented on the left and sand amendment is on the right. It may not be so obvious in the picture but the difference is huge. A nice benefit of the smoother soil on the right is that the horses don’t trip on it like they do the area to the left. When the clay dries it hardens, creating rock-like clumps next to hoof-sized holes filled with stagnant water. Smooth is the way to go.

The experiment continues but sand is winning so far. We’re going to step up our sand amendment effort and expand it to a wider area. I titled this post “Barn Entry Mud Abatement – Part 1” because I intend to continue reporting on this experiment. I’ve posted in a few online horse forums about our mud problem and quickly learned barn entrance mud is universal and no one seems to have a good solution beyond paving. I hope this information helps those of you who are in “low budget” mode like us.

The entire mud abatement series:

Mud Abatement, Part 1 (this post)
Mud Abatement, Part 2
Mud Abatement, Part 3

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